McNelly Torres reports for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting: As part of the 2009 economic stimulus package, millions of federal dollars flowed to Florida’s public school districts. The money was intended to benefit low-performing schools as way of closing the so-called achievement gap. Starved for cash as a result of plummeting real estate values and dwindling property tax revenues, Florida school districts used these hundreds of millions to put off the inevitable — difficult budget cuts.
Now, two years after the first stimulus dollar rolled in, Florida’s public school system is learning difficult financial lessons. School districts throughout Florida are laying off teachers, closing programs and scrambling to identify other significant cost-saving measures — all problems made worse by the fact that Florida’s school districts used the stimulus money in large measure to delay needed cuts.