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Hillsborough County Public Schools Avoid State Takeover With COVID-19 Money

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Hillsborough County Schools announced Monday afternoon that it received over $100 million from the state to help with its budget deficit, and now will be able to avoid a state takeover.

The Hillsborough County superintendent says the district received $101 million in Coronavirus-relief money called ESSER 2. Last week, the district needed $10 million to avoid a state takeover and the ESSER 2 money will close that gap and fund other COVID-19 related expenses.

Hillsborough County Schools parent, Damaris Allen, has two high schoolers and says "I'm glad they finally distributed the money but I'm disappointed that it took so long to do that."

She says she had hoped COVID-19 relief money would be given to the district sooner.

"The schools were told that they had to open, that we didn't really have a choice," said Allen.

Three weeks ago the district received a letter from the state threatening to take over if district leaders couldn't come up with a plan to fix an $86 million deficit, but last week after making some cuts and budgeting corrections, the district announced it only needed $10 million more.

Allen says if there was a state takeover, she'd un-enroll both of her children. "I have some serious concerns about the quality of education my children would be getting if the state took over. I think there would be a lot of focus on the bottom line instead of what is best for students," said Allen.

Now superintendent Addison Davis, says with the $101 million of ESSER 2 money, a takeover is no longer a concern. "This gives comfort. Just know every day we will be working towards protecting our classrooms, protecting our teachers."

He says the money will be used cover the district's $10 million deficit, buy laptops and other technology for students, and help students who may have fallen behind during the pandemic. Additionally, the money would help "address mental health, help with closing the achievement gap by addressing the technology divide that is happening currently."

About $14 million is going to charter schools and about $86 million is going to the other public schools in the county. Allen says while the budget is looking better right now, she believes the main issue is underfunding from the Florida Department of Education. "This is a temporary band-aid that fixes a problem that was exacerbated by COVID-19."

Hillsborough County School board members will meet Tuesday morning to review the district's financial plan being submitted to the state.

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