Policy & Funding
Florida District Receives First Project SAFE Grant
Alachua County Public Schools in Florida has received the first
grant under the Biden administration's Project to Support America's
Families and Educators (Project SAFE) program, which is designed
to compensate schools that lose some portion of their funding as a
result of COVID-19 policies that come into conflict with state
The award, totaling $147,719, was specifically given to the School
Board of Alachua County to compensate school board members whose
monthly compensation was deducted from state funds for the district's
mask policy, which appears to have been in conflict with a state
mandate. The district
allows families to opt their student out of wearing masks with
the approval of a doctor or nurse practitioner. The state mandate
says parents can opt their students out of wearing a mask without
such medical approval.
It's unclear why Alachua has been so far the only recipient of a
Project SAFE grant since the
program was announced earlier this month. Alachua's grant was
announced in a press release from the United States Department of
Education six days after Alachua's
application was filed.
Alachua County is a district troubled by racial disparities. The
district has a high rate of disciplinary actions and referrals of
students to police for prosecution for offenses like classroom
disruptions, fighting and petty vandalism, with the vast majority of
those disciplinary actions targeting black students. In a report
on school-to-prison pipelines, the Florida ACLU reported that
while black students make up only 34% of the district's student
population, they account for 73% of student arrests, 76% of police
citations, 60% of expulsions and alternative placements and 72% of
out-of-school suspensions in the 2017–2018 school year. Since the
return to in-person instruction this year, disciplinary actions and
police referrals appear to be continuing apace, with several
expulsions and criminal charges
reported for vandalism potentially related to a TikTok challenge.
Also in the last several days, the
district has received a
number of bomb threats (motivation unknown at
this point), resulting in school closures.
Further information on Project SAFE can be found on the ed.gov
Project SAFE portal.
About the Author
David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.
He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).