In preparation for communities to take in Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria, five Florida lawmakers are asking the state’s top education official to grant flexibility to public schools so they can accommodate additional students in the coming months.
A letter sent to state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart on Monday by the lawmakers formally asked that the state ensure schools receive additional funding to cover the uptick in student enrollment that wasn’t anticipated when the Legislature approved this year’s school spending in June.
Based on the extenuating circumstances, they also want Stewart to give schools a break when it comes to certain required enrollment paperwork and constitutionally mandated caps on class sizes.
The letter stated “Not only must Florida be prepared for the influx of students, but we must allow schools to continue to implement their plan for a successful year”. “We believe these requests will help make the transitions of students from Puerto Rico manageable for our school districts and help ease displaced students back to their education.”
The letter was signed by five Republican House members: Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., of Hialeah, Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs, David Santiago of Deltona, Rene Plasencia of Orlando and Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud.
Rep. Manny Diaz Jr is the House’s Pre-K-12 education budget chairman.
“Puerto Rican families have been through an incredible tragedy and it is our duty to be prepared to help these children who have suffered and lost almost everything continue their education without additional hardship.” Said Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah.
“It is extremely important for Florida to be prepared for a large number of evacuees from Puerto Rico,” Bob Cortes said in a statement. “So many Puerto Rican families have literally lost everything, and we must stand ready to do everything possible to help their children transition as seamlessly as possible to a new school and learning environment.”
The lawmakers are asking Pam Stewart to “review the process” given their circumstances and to address the students’ challenges in providing documentation that may have been lost or destroyed due to the storm.