TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Governor Ron DeSantis spoke in Hialeah Wednesday at the City of Hialeah Educational Academy. Signage at the event read “Florida: The Education State,” similar to a bill signing ceremony for the state’s progress monitoring efforts Tuesday. He announced $289 million in funding for education initiatives.
“We have a lot of great things related to education that we’re going to be announcing over the next few weeks that are a result of the legislative session,” DeSantis said, and recognized Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, who will exit his position in April.
DeSantis also praised multiple lawmakers and local officials for being present at the event, alongside teachers and school personnel.
“Well we’re really excited about being here in Hialeah for today’s announcement,” DeSantis said. “I’ll just say, we’ve done so much really since I’ve been governor, but you just look at what we did in the last legislative session. Yesterday I signed a law that moves Florida away from FSA into progress monitoring, which is something that a lot of people have recommended because we have the tools to do it. And that’s going to be something, we’re going to maintain our commitment to high standards and academic performance.”
DeSantis said the progress monitoring was fully funded and intended to help students and parents reach education goals for achievement.
“This is the last year for the FSA in the state of Florida. I want to get beyond that. One of the things we have really stressed is education that is providing pathways for success for students. Some of that may be in academic disciplines that will be in high demand like STEM, which is what they do a great job here,” DeSantis said. “But also providing certifications for students so that if they’re graduating high school, they have a certification and yes, you go to college if that’s what you want to do, and we want everybody to have that opportunity.”
The governor said the state also wanted to be able to have students get certifications to directly enter their fields without requiring college, using certifications instead. He mentioned, as he has in the past, the high level of entry-level payment for the fields the state has prioritized for funding. It’s an educational goal focused on workforce training and vocational certifications that the state has committed funding to for fields like truck driving, nursing, engineering, law enforcement, fire rescue, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs.
DeSantis took the opportunity to highlight the additional funding for bonuses to law enforcement officers that was included in the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, and the high demand for nursing staff as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also criticized places in the U.S. that defunded law enforcement, pointing out that Florida had not, instead giving $1,000 bonuses for those in uniform.
“If you also look at nursing, being able to meet that demand, there is a huge huge demand in healthcare right now. Part of it was exposed by COVID, but part of it was there even prior to COVID, so the folks going into programs related to nursing, they’re going to have opportunities as they get beyond school,” DeSantis said. “So this is an example of really meeting needs that exist in a really big way, so I want to commend the folks here for doing that and many other places across the state of Florida who are stepping up to the plate and understanding that we do that.”
DeSantis said Florida led the nation in the amount of migration to the state, adding to the need for more nurses and law enforcement officers. The governor promised to sign House Bill 3 into law, and reiterated Florida’s commitment to being a “law and order” state and giving $5,000 signing bonuses to law enforcement officers who move to work in Florida from out of state.
“Today’s announcement builds off of a lot of the things we’ve talked about, a lot of the things we’ve done in Florida. We’re able and proud to announce an additional $289 million for programs that will improve student achievement and close learning gaps. This money includes the following: $105 million for after school, weekend and summer learning camps that will help struggling students catch up,” DeSantis said. “And it can be done this summer coming up, but it also could be done, you don’t have to spend it right away. $47 million to purchase curriculum in line with Florida’s new standards in English, Math, Civics and Holocaust education. $50 million to support reading intervention and professional development for reading coaches in schools.”
DeSantis highlighted Corcoran’s and House Speaker Chris Sprowls’ commitments to early learning and literacy initiatives, emphasizing the ability to read at an early age and how it improves the likelihood of educational success through all years of school, and improved graduation rates.
“$44 million to support STEM programs and math acceleration, including hands-on learning opportunities for students, that’d be something obviously they could expand some of the things they’re doing here with that very easily,” DeSantis said. “$22.5 million for parent mentorship and extra educational resources to help parents continue to reinforce what’s taught in classrooms at home.”
The governor said there was an “unfortunate debate” in American society about “whether parents even have a role” in education for their children. He said parents in Florida were integral to education, and that the parents have every right to know what’s happening in their school and to be part of their children’s education.
“Finally, $5 million to help establish regional mental health resiliency teams to support districts with delivering services to students,” DeSantis said. “My wife, the first lady, has worked very hard on resiliency in our schools. It’s something that’s been overlooked by our society in the past. It’s something we feel we need to tackle head on.”
He said because Florida had its students in school in person, they’re better off than the students that were learning remotely in other areas due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
“We’re excited about what this funding can do. Any type of achievement gap, we want to work on addressing,” DeSantis said. “I think what we’ve seen with the data is that the math proficiency kind of suffered the most with COVID, so we want to make sure districts are able to remedy that and do. And also we’re really really happy since I’ve been governor to put a renewed emphasis on American civics in schools.”
The governor said schools are preparing students to go into a variety of skilled fields, whether it’s law enforcement, or fields where they have vocational credentials, and others who go to post-secondary school instead.
“All of that is great, and there’s a whole bunch of different ways where you can go to realize your dreams, but no matter what you do, everyone that comes out of our school system in Florida is going to be called upon to exercise the duty of being an American citizen. And that means something. You need to understand what it means to be an American. You need to understand the founding principles that built this country, you need to understand our Constitution and our Bill of Rights and why the founders designed it the way they did,” DeSantis said. “You need to understand all of the different people throughout the history of our country who have fought for freedom, whether that’s freedom in our country, overcoming injustice, or whether that’s fighting people overseas like we did when we defeated Nazi Germany. People have been willing to lay down their life for this country and it’s because it means something. It’s because we’re fortunate to be Americans. And I just think that every student that graduates from high school here needs to have that proper foundation and proper understanding.”
He said whether it’s the civics and debate initiative or giving teachers training and bonuses, the state of Florida has done more in the past three years than any other state to increase civic literacy, and the newly announced funding can be used for that too.
“There’s a lot of problems in our society, there’s a lot of divisions. And I’m not saying this is the only thing, but if we all had a proper understanding, if we all agreed kind of on the foundational ideals, I think it’d probably be much better and it’d be easier to agree on some of these other things,” DeSantis said.
The governor also said the state had done the biggest salary increase for teachers in the history of the state of Florida, and promised more big announcements to come. The announced $289 million in funding was taken from budgeting provided for by federal COVID-19 relief funds.