Florida to rescue ‘essential’ online education programs after veto

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Ron DeSantis speaking at an event.|AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Florida to save ‘necessary’ online education programs after veto

TALLAHASSEE– “Necessary” pieces of a $29.4 million education program vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis will survive and be moved from the University of West Florida.

The emergency rescue, which avoids Florida law and recommends that state officials were unprepared for the significant fallout of the veto, was revealed by the State University System Board of Governors and UWF just hours prior to the cuts took hold at midnight Tuesday.

The Complete Florida Plus Program in its existing form will be dismantled. Programs considered essential will be recreated under a new name, enabling the state to navigate a law that put UWF in charge of the program and another that limits spending on banned programs.

Without action, the guv’s veto would have detached vital services like online library resources used by K-12 students, colleges, and universities across Florida as the state continues to fight economic and health crises activated by a surge in Covid-19 infections.

Complete Florida, in the meantime, will be survived by reserve financing– the same pool of money state auditors said UWF had actually improperly tapped from state library resources, eventually leading the Department of Education and governor’s workplace to seek a modification in leadership.

“We are confident that new management will enhance oversight and decision-making procedures,” the BOG said in a written declaration issued late Tuesday.

UWF and the governor’s office validated the shift, noting that online education services will be the financial top priority.

DeSantis spokesperson Helen Aguirre Ferré stated “leftover rolled over funds” will allow the program to continue to operate up until the shift.

The board will work with UWF and the Florida Department of Education, the company that oversees the Florida College System, to move “necessary” Complete Florida programs from UWF’s control. The board did not define which services are considered necessary and stated more information will be offered in the coming months. It isn’t known where the programs will be housed.

Programs like the $3 million initiative that helps former university student go back to school to finish their degree are at risk of being cut.

The transition strategy sends Florida into murky legal territory.

State law forbids the governor, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and state agencies from licensing expenditures for programs that became part of a banned appropriation.

And moving Complete Florida far from UWF would contravene a law that put the university in charge of that program and the Florida Academic Library Providers Cooperative, which supplies online access to 17 million books to 1.3 million students, faculty and staff.

Complete Florida will survive on $9.8 million in carry-forward accounts, the equivalent of about a 3rd of its spending plan, according to UWF records. State auditors in March said UWF should repay Complete Florida $2.4 million in carry-forward cash that the university poorly pulled from the program’s accounts, which might supply extra dollars.

State University System Chancellor Marshall Criser on Wednesday asked UWF to refrain from investing carry-forward dollars without first consulting system officials.

That method, the system “can ensure the carry forward funds are expended on services that are determined as necessary going forward which you provide an accounting of the funds that are presently overloaded,” Criser wrote in a letter to UWF leaders.

While university authorities scramble to reconfigure the program, some 150 workers in Tallahassee, Gainesville and Pensacola are in limbo. Program staffers had actually not gotten termination notices since Wednesday, according to UWF authorities.

Gary Fineout contributed to this report.Florida Playbook Gary Fineoutand Matt Dixon’s must-read rundown on what’s hot, insane or shady about politics in the Sunlight State. Register for POLITICO Florida Playbook