By Patricia Levesque

Florida’s 2019 Legislative Session concluded today, closing out one of the nation’s boldest sessions on education this year.

From empowering families with educational options and strengthening career education to providing teachers with professional development and bonus opportunities, students and their futures are the real winners this session.

During the next few weeks, please join us in thanking Governor Ron DeSantis and legislative leaders – especially President Bill Galvano and Speaker Jose Oliva – for their leadership and tireless advocacy on behalf of Florida students.

Thank you to everyone who joined us in working to make sure every Florida student has access to a quality education and a pathway to success after graduation.

Aligning and Promoting Career and Technical Education

In House Bill 7071, lawmakers improved career education pathways for K-12 and postsecondary students through an annual review to ensure the quality of course offerings and alignment with regional workforce needs.

In addition to the critical annual review and alignment of workforce education to eliminate dead-end pathways and creating competitive grants to sponsor pre-apprentice/apprenticeship programs, House Bill 7071 also included several initiatives to increase postsecondary degree attainment.

The legislation creates the SAIL to 60 initiative to increase college degree or certificate attainment to 60 percent of Florida adults by 2030, reverse transfer policy, and the “Last Mile” program, which would cover tuition and fees for individuals who are within 12 or fewer credits of earning their first degree and who were enrolled in an accredited institution within the last eight years.

Through the legislation, students will be able to substitute a computer science credit for one credit of math or science of equivalent rigor, with the exception of Algebra I, Geometry and Biology I.

House Bill 7071 fulfills many of the priorities outlined in Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive order that seeks to make Florida the top state in the nation in workforce education by 2030.

We commend Senators Travis Hutson and Keith Perry and Representatives Amber Mariano, Dr. Ralph Massulo, Jr. and Mel Ponder for putting Florida on the path to be the best state in the nation for workforce education.

Empowering Families with Educational Options

In Senate Bill 7070, lawmakers empowered thousands of low- and middle-income families to choose the best educational fit for their child through the Family Empowerment Scholarship program.

The Family Empowerment Scholarship Program will provide approximately 18,000 Florida K-12 students with education scholarships to attend participating private schools in the first year and add around 7,000 enrollment slots each year after.

Students from families making up to 300 percent of poverty ($77,250 for a household of four) who attended a public school the previous year and students entering Kindergarten would be eligible to participate.

The legislation also revamped Florida’s teacher and principal bonus program and increased locations where high-performing, non-profit charter schools, also known as Hope Operators, can locate to help underserved students.

We commend Senator Manny Diaz, Jr. and Representative Jennifer Sullivan for empowering Florida families with the resources to choose the best educational fit for their children.

Florida’s 2019-20 Budget Wins

  • Invested in Public School Students: Lawmakers approved a $242.60 per student increase, the largest increase since 2013-2014. Overall, $782.9 million was added to funding for public schools this session, bringing the total state and local funding to $21.84 billion.
  • Providing Greater Access to a Customized Education: More than 2,000 additional students with special needs will be able to participate in the Gardiner Scholarship program next school year thanks to a $23.3 million increase in the legislature’s proposed budget.
  • Expanding Computer Science Education: In the legislature’s approved budget, lawmakers included $10 million to provide professional development for teachers in computer science. Last year, lawmakers passed legislation to offer more computer science education to middle and high school students. This appropriation will ensure more Florida educators receive the necessary training and are able to receive bonuses for earning credentials to teach high quality computer science courses. For students in elementary and middle school, lawmakers increased the opportunity for incentives to school districts for students who earn digital tool certifications. This incentive program is essential to helping students to develop early computer science skills.
  • Strengthening Florida’s Public Charter Schools: In the legislature’s approved budget, lawmakers directed $158.2 million in capital outlay funding for Florida’s public charter schools, which serve more than 295,000 students. According to a Florida Department of Education report, charter school students have higher academic achievement, greater learning gains and the achievement gap between student groups is smaller than students in district-run schools.

We commend Senators Rob Bradley and Kelli Stargel, Representatives Travis Cummings and Chris Latvala and all legislators for increasing the Sunshine State’s commitment to Florida students, teachers and families in Florida’s 2019-20 state budget.

To download a recap of Florida’s 2019 legislative session, visit 2019 Wins for Florida Students and Families.