TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Home book deliveries for elementary students are officially on their way as Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill Thursday at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce.
House Bill 3, the Home Book Delivery for Elementary Students bill, provides credits against specific taxes under the New Worlds Reading Initiative Tax Credit and revises how corporate income taxes under that initiative are applied, according to the Florida Senate’s bill summary.
“As a father of three young children, I want every child to have the opportunity to achieve their full potential,” said Governor DeSantis. “The biggest difference we can make in setting Florida children up for success is making sure they know how to read.”
From the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2021-2022, $200 million was set aside for the New Worlds Initiative program in non-recurring funds. A Florida House of Representatives analysis of the bill says that hardcopy books will be delivered to students of the program monthly.
Funding of the expected to come from the appropriations bill and monetary donations made by corporations in qualifying contributions under the New Worlds Reading Initiative, established by the law.
Under the law, the Florida Department of Education can now designate a state-level administrator with an academic innovation institution to put the home delivery initiative into effect, and publish information about the program on the DOE website. Starting Sept. 30, 2022, DOE’s site will have annual reports on participation, student achievement, and how students are gaining knowledge from the program.
According to HB 3, the state legislature finds that “a literacy-rich home environment helps develop reading and writing skills in young learners,” and will help them prepare for success in future education and future employment.
The law cites research showing a link between reading and academic performance, but that students with fewer books at home have lower educational outcomes than their peers with more access to books and other reading materials.
The law’s effect on credit for contributions to the New Worlds Reading Initiative starts on Jan. 1, 2022.
Through the new law, the DOE administrator must send the books through the mail at no cost to students directly or through an agreement with a book distribution company, and must develop training materials for parents of student participants.
Additionally, the DOE will have to maintain a clearinghouse for information on national, state, and local nonprofit organizations that help improve literacy and give students books.
Each year, the DOE will have to provide a financial report about the number of students and households served, plus expend eligible contributions received for the purchase and delivery of the books. Administrative fees cannot exceed 2% of total contributions.
While the signing brings attention to the new law, the act itself is more symbolic, similar to what happened earlier this month with the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, a law that had already passed and was signed later to show support for the changes it enabled.
Following the signing, the governor’s office announced a total of $270 million invested in literacy initiatives throughout Florida, a combination of the $200 million form the New Worlds Reading Initiative and another $71 million for other literacy programs.
According to a release from the governor’s office, the additional $71 million will be used in the following ways:
- $61 million to support direct student interventions, including targeted individual or small group literacy tutoring for students in kindergarten through first grade;
- $4 million to provide elementary school principals and assistant principals with effective practices to help them focus on improving literacy within their schools;
- $3 million for Literacy Coach Boot Camps to improve the skills and proficiency of literacy coaches; and
- $2.8 million to continue statewide progress monitoring through the Department of Education for grades K-8.
“Literacy is foundational to learning and is probably the most pressing issue facing our students today,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Education is freedom – the great equalizer. Research shows that providing books to students both empowers parents to engage with their child’s reading activities and improves the student’s reading skills.”