As Florida Teachers Worry About School Funding, Trump and DeVos Divert Federal CARES Act Relief from Public Schools

12 mins read

A recent Florida Education Association survey shows that more than half of Florida’s teachers are stressed about looming budget cuts. The ongoing economic crisis, worsened by Donald Trump’s failure to act decisively early in the outbreak, could lead to major budget cuts to Florida’s schools. 
While public schools are facing budget shortfalls, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continue to push their anti-public school agenda. Thanks to guidance put out by DeVos, private schools are now positioned to receive more support than intended from the CARES Act, while low-income school districts will receive less. 

Additionally, according to a Washington Post report, Trump and DeVos have diverted $180 million in relief for K-12 school districts and higher education to “expand alternatives to traditional public school districts” in an attempt to create a backdoor voucher program.

“It’s unconscionable that even in the middle of a pandemic, Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos are continuing their assault on public education,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo, “Trump’s own incompetence has exacerbated this crisis — and now he and DeVos are diverting critical funding from public education to push their ideological agenda.” 

Trump’s Testing Failure Led US Economy to Shut Down
Director of Harvard Global Health Institute, Dr. Ashish Jha, during the Select Subcommittee Member Briefing on Testing, Tracing, and Targeted Containment hearing said“Every expert on the left, right, and center agrees that we had to shut our economy down because the outbreak got too big because we didn’t have a testing infrastructure that allowed us to put our arms around the outbreak. And so testing was the fundamental failure that forced our country to shut down.”

Looming Budget Cuts 
Tampa Bay Times: “In Florida, education alone makes up about 52 percent of all general revenue spending, according to an analysis from Florida TaxWatch, a group that advocates for less government spending.
“That makes schools a hard-to-miss target for lawmakers forced to cut. During the last recession, lawmakers slashed current-year budgets, forcing schools to give millions back after the money had been committed. Schools eliminated thousands of positions but avoided major layoffs when federal stimulus money came through.” 

More on potential budget cuts from Biden campaign: Fact Sheet: Florida Communities Face Steep Budget Cuts To Education, Health Care Due To COVID-19

Trump-DeVos Continue Anti-Public School Agenda During Pandemic
New York Times: “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is using the $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization law to throw a lifeline to education sectors she has long championed, directing millions of federal dollars intended primarily for public schools and colleges to private and religious schools.”
Chalkbeat: “The move will be a boon to private schools, many of which are likely facing their own fiscal challenges because of the pandemic. But it already has public school advocates up in arms, arguing that it will funnel precious resources to wealthy private schools while districts struggle to provide computers and free meals.”

Washington Post: “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has found a new pot of cash with which to pursue her school ‘choice’ agenda: money from the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package Congress passed to boost the economy as it deals with the pandemic.
DeVos, who has made it her top priority as education secretary to find alternatives to traditional public school districts, announced this week that she is starting a competition for states to apply for “rethinking” education grants.” 

Hispanic Leaders Call out Trump and the Republicans for their Hypocritical Actions Toward the Cuban and Venezuelan Communities

They’re exploiting the pain and loss of the Venezuelan and Cubans for political gain” 

Today, the Florida Democratic Party hosted a press call with State Senator José Javier Rodríguez, State Representative Javier Fernández, Dr. Frank Mora, and Juan Gonzalez. While Trump and the Republicans claim to support Venezuelans and Cubans, the reality tells a different story: Trump still refuses to help Cuban and Venezuelan asylum seekers in the United States and, behind closed doors, Republican allies are receiving money from the Maduro regime. Just this week, a New York Times article revealed that former Republican Congressman David Rivera had a deal with the Maduro regime for consulting services in 2017.  

Highlights from the press call:  

State Senator José Javier Rodríguez (SD-37): 

“For years, Republicans have had this tactic of pretending as if they’re the only ones fighting for democracy and human rights. The truth is Democrats have fought even harder over the course of history for democracy and human rights in Latin America… What we’re doing today is calling out the hypocrisy, the silence of many in the Republican party when we see the action by prominent Republicans, starting with Donald Trump… And of course recently we’ve heard of the close relationship, to say the least, between ex-Congressman David Rivera and PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company. At the same time, as Republican leaders try to make it seem like their ideology and their party is the only one fighting for democracy, we have very egregious and direct examples of hypocrisy and we don’t see any outrage on the Republican side. Where is the outrage?”  

State Representative Javier Fernández (HD-114):

“It shocks the conscience when one juxtaposes the talking points of Republicans when it comes to their positions on Cuba and Venezuela against their actions… Talking points and a lot of lip service to policy changes for the benefit of the people of Venezuela and Cuba really only come second to the personal interests, the political interests, of the Republican party and its leaders. I look forward to the day when we have a new administration in Washington led by Joe Biden, who will go back to putting the people of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua and their interests ahead of the partisan and political interests of any party.” 

 Dr. Frank Mora, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere: 

“There’s always a difference, even a contradiction, between what the administration says and what the administration does…  On the one hand, there’s all this talk of anti-communism and really, that rhetoric is nothing more than using the pain and the loss of Cubans and Venezuelans for political gain… While they’re doing that rhetorically, David Rivera and others are doing business with the Venezuelan regime. David Rivera is sharing those resources with GOP candidates in Miami-Dade county… One hypocrisy I want to highlight, and that is often not talked about, is that today those Cubans, Venezuelans, and I would add those Nicaraguans, comprise the fastest growing segment of immigration court backlogs.”

“The Trump administration is deporting Cubans and Venezuelans in large amounts. The increase in Cuban deportations was 300%… The Administration claims to want to help the Venezuelan community but has yet to grant TPS to Venezuelans who are being deported to that humanitarian disaster that exists in Venezuela. That is hypocrisy and that is the double standard, that’s the difference between rhetoric and action.” 

Juan Gonzalez, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and former Special Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden:

“The Trump administration is exploiting the pain and loss of the Venezuelan, the Cuban, and the Nicaraguan people for political and economic gain… This administration is trying to distract, and even fabricate information, about Vice President Joe Biden and Democrats because they can’t win on the merits… If you want to look at concrete action on Venezuela and Cuba in the U.S. Congress, you have to look no further than our representatives: Mucarsel-Powell, Shalala, and Wasserman-Schultz, who have been leading bipartisan efforts in the House of Representatives to do something on Venezuela… [Vice President Joe Biden] is somebody who has stood up for human rights defenders in Latin America, regardless of whether there were cameras on him or not.” 

Trump’s insinuation that he could be president forever highlights his dictatorial tendencies 

This past Thursday, President Donald Trump insinuated that he could stay in power for 9 or 13 more years, in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 22nd Amendment. Luisana Pérez Fernández, spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party, critiqued Trump’s statement and compared him to the dictators in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua: 
“Hearing these types of statements from the President of the United States reminds me of those dictators that we left behind in our countries — elected officials who steamrolled constitutions and cemented power in perpetuity.  Those of us from Central and South America know how this story goes. Our duty as citizens is ensuring that come November, we vote for democracy and for Joe Biden so that we can remove those in power who behave like strongmen and seek to become dictators.”

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Florida Democrats believe in effective and efficient government that prioritizes quality education, affordable health care, and an economy in which anyone who works hard can succeed.

Most importantly, we believe that we are stronger together. We believe the fundamental American promise — that you can go as far as your own hard work will take you — should shine brightest in Florida.

That is why we champion the middle class and cherish the principle that all Floridians should have the opportunity to work hard and succeed. That is why we will never stop fighting for better public schools, because education is the surest path to a better life for millions.

From standing for affordable health care and better schools to fighting for civil rights and access to the ballot box, Florida Democrats are leading every day to move our state forward.

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