Chris Sprowls encourages schools to find, re-enroll missing school children
House Speaker Chris Sprowls takes questions from the press during the Florida Legislature's Organization Session at the Florida Capitol Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020.

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'The welfare of these children is of paramount importance.'

House Speaker Chris Sprowls sent a letter to school superintendents on Thursday stressing the need to find and re-enroll Florida students who’ve vanished from classrooms amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to an October survey cited by Sprowls, full-time student membership has decreased by more than 87,000 students statewide. 

That number translates to more than 3% of Florida’s student population, Sprowls said.

He encouraged school districts to utilize social services and law enforcement to locate the students and return them to the classroom. 

“The welfare of these children is of paramount importance,” Sprowls wrote. “We have a moral obligation not to allow any of these children to slip through the cracks in the system.”

Sprowls warned the enrollment decrease will impact school budgets as per-pupil funding will continue in the 2021-2022 state budget.  

Notably, amid the pandemic, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an executive order last year allowing school districts to keep their estimated per-student funding regardless of actual enrollment.

“This ‘hold harmless’ provision has allowed school districts to retain $700 million of taxpayer funds over and above what would otherwise be permitted under the law,” Sprowls wrote. “However, this accommodation does not reflect a fundamental change in how Florida funds our school system.”

Further, Sprowls cautioned superintendents against using federal aid to finance recurring budget items. 

“While these funds are designed to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, this massive windfall also presents very real risks to the sound management of our school districts,” Sprowls wrote.

Instead, he suggested the federal funds should go toward “deferred maintenance projects.” 

“With these resources, school districts have the opportunity to replace aging HVAC systems, retrofit older windows and doors, install air purification and cleaning systems, and complete other renovations that improve air quality and reduce the risk of viral and environmental health hazards,” Sprowls wrote. 

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.

One comment

  • just sayin

    February 12, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    I suspect many of those missing kids are kindergartners or people who realized that home schooling isn’t the horror show it’s made out to be. Kindergartner is voluntary in Florida. We decided to keep our kindergartner home because we (erroneously) thought the schools would be closed down at some point anyway. We’re already past the standards she was supposed to meet to graduate kindergarten, and we’ve done it with about two hours of instruction per day. Public school teachers have to teach to the dumbest kid in the class, so it really slows things down.

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