At the conclusion of 2020, Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran released Governor DeSantis’ following education highlights. Not only has Governor DeSantis proved he is the Education Governor, he has continued delivering on his promise to make Florida’s education system the best in the nation and ensure every student receives a world-class education.
“As 2020 comes to a close and I reflect on this unprecedented year, I am extremely proud of the work we have done for Florida’s students.” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “We have secured historic education funding, increased educational choice options, increased school safety, emphasized mental health awareness, expanded opportunities for career and technical education, elevated and celebrated educators, and so much more. I am looking forward to celebrating continued success throughout 2021 as we continue to build on this positive momentum to ensure there is no better state in the nation to receive a world class education.”
“Governor DeSantis has once again proven to be a true leader by securing historic wins for Florida students through investments and policies that will change Florida’s educational landscape for decades to come. Governor DeSantis truly is the Education Governor, and Florida is the ‘Education State.’” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “This year has truly been a measure of the collective hard work from our districts, educators, students and their families. Floridians have been resilient and shown courage in ensuring every student continues their education this year and we must thank them for keeping our students on track, learning and growing. With the implementation of the Florida B.E.S.T. standards, early learning and literacy initiatives, lifting up our struggling schools and at-risk students, and providing access to higher quality acceleration and career pathways courses, we must continue to close all manner of achievement gaps, so that Florida’s students become great citizens, and our education system is #1 in the nation.”
Florida Department of Education’s 2020 Accomplishments
Investing in Florida’s Students
- At the direction of Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida became the first state to completely eliminate common core by creating and adopting Florida’s B.E.S.T. (Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking) Standards.
- These standards, created by over 100 Florida education experts with a combined experience of over 1,500 years, improves the quality of curriculum, streamlines testing, prioritizes civics, and outlines a pathway for Florida to become the most literate state in the nation by bringing Florida’s standards back to the basics and building a foundation, starting with our earliest learners.
- Secured a total commitment of $21.5 billion ranging from Florida’s early learners through postsecondary students.
- Notably the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP), supporting K-12 public education, increased by a total of $641 million, including giving districts greater spending flexibility with a $137 total per student funding increase that includes a significant increase of $40 per student in the Base Student Allocation (BSA).
- Secured a $9.9 million increase for Voluntary Prekindergarten, the highest BSA since 2011-12 and first increase since 2014-15, for a total of $412 million
- Secured a $20.3 million funding increase for our public and private Historically Black Colleges and Universities, representing a historic total investment of over $124 million.
Increasing Student Achievement and Measuring What Matters
- Florida’s education system moved up from 4th to 3rd in the nation in the Quality Counts national ranking for K-12 Achievement.
- Florida continues to have the 3rd highest Advanced Placement (AP) student success rate and the 3rd highest improvement rate over the last 10 years.
- Florida ranked 2nd nationwide on the Parent Power Index by the Center for Education Reform.
- Florida’s 2018-2019 graduation rate continued to climb to an all-time high of 86.9%, an increase of 0.8 percentage points over 2017-18 and a jump of 27.7% points since 2003-04. Additionally, students with disabilities also reached an all-time high of 80.6%.
- As part of Florida’s CARES Act plan, $8 million in funding has been provided to offer public high school students the opportunity to take the ACT or SAT assessment at no charge to them during the 2020-21 school year. It is expected that over 200,000 students will take these assessments in spring 2021 during a school day in order to qualify for admission to a postsecondary institution and/or qualify for a Bright Futures scholarship.
- Announced massive enhancements to the KnowYourSchools portal that will make it easier for families to access information on school- and district-level educational outcomes. Additionally, enhanced the VAM Visualization Tool with additional functionality based on user feedback. A public-facing site was developed that can be used in conjunction with Know Your Schools to get even more information on school performance. A statewide teacher search report was created to assist district and school administrators with recruitment, retention, and to ensure that their most fragile schools are staffed with the highest-performing teachers available.
Surgical, Not Sweeping Response to COVID-19
- Helped school districts move to distance learning and hosted over 75 live webinars throughout COVID-19 to ensure Florida’s students could continue receiving a world-class education.
- The Florida Education Foundation Awarded $300,000 in Distance Learning Mini-grants to 44 public schools, school districts and non-profit organizations to support and create innovative solutions for distance learning during the spring and summer semesters.
- Provided more than 32,000 laptops to 34 small and rural school districts to quickly serve Florida’s students as they transitioned to distance learning.
- The Florida College System (FCS), State University System (SUS), and private institutions across the state announced more than 130 ventilators have been donated to local hospitals, community medical centers and other facilities. Additionally the FCS, SUS and other private institutions donated, tens of thousands of boxes containing gloves, masks – including N95 masks – gowns, caps, shoe slippers and other PPE supplies to assist medical personnel as they care for patients, and food pantries and other social services available for students.
- Provided comprehensive distance learning resources in partnership with Florida Virtual School to ensure students continue learning while school campuses were closed and created best practices for distance learning throughout the state which was shared directly with more than 2+ million parents, and a complete best practices guide for distance learning, which they shared with 175,000+ teachers. Additionally, Florida Virtual School Provided 100 free digital course to all Florida schools.
- Issued Emergency Order 2020-05 and Executive Order 20-212 that extends the deadline for students graduating in the 2019-20 school year to earn the minimum qualifying SAT or ACT score to earn a Bright Futures scholarship until December 1, 2020.
- Supported the Florida Department of Children and Families, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to distribute Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) for households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures.
- Increased and expedited access to child care services for 26,000 children of ﬁrst responders and health care professionals. 87% of these children were new enrollments. Over 4,000 eligible early learning/child care providers, received a monthly incentive of $500 per child for a total of almost $77 million.
- Allowed VPK Flexible Innovative Options, in alignment with school district reopening plans, for 447 private and public school providers with 8,360 children to ensure that VPK programs are open to enable learning to continue and for parents to be able to rejoin the workforce.
- Governor Ron DeSantis and Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced recommendations for local communities to consider as they planned to re-open safe and healthy schools. This extensive, 140 page plan outlines the nearly $475 million in state directed education financial assistance provided to Florida through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In total, more than $2 billion in education-related aid was provided through the CARES Act.
- Created the #COVIDStopsWithMe Toolkit designed to assist Florida’s education family in lowering the impact in Florida’s education institutions and slowing the spread of COVID-19. This guidance and tools helped all of Florida’s education institutions make decisions, protect their students and staff, and communicate with their local communities.
- For the fall semester, Issued Emergency Order 2020-EO-06 to ensure all Florida schools could re-open five days a week to serve students that choose to receive an in-person education, and created new innovative options for families to have the choice to decide what worked best for the health and safety of their student and family, while also ensuring the full panoply of services that protected Florida’s most vulnerable students.
- Chancellor of the K-12 Division of Public Schools at Florida Department of Education fought tirelessly as a member of the Florida State High School Athletic Association (FSHAA) Board to ensure sports could and would continue in the fall and spring of 2020 as Florida school districts reopened.
- Published Emergency Order 2020 – EO-07 for the spring semester, which expands upon the critical flexibility and assurances outlined in FDOE Order No. 2020-EO-06 – Reopening K-12 Schools, and continues full parental choice. Additionally, extending the deadline for teachers to obtain their reading Endorsement to June 30, 2021 from December 31, 2020 (EO-02).
Elevating and Celebrating Educators
- Marked 2020 as “The Year of the Teacher” with a bold step to move Florida to #5 in the nation in terms of minimum teacher pay with an historic $500 million pay increase for teachers to increase their minimum base salary to $47,500 and raise salaries of Florida’s veteran teachers (HB 641 and HB 5001).
- Allocated $2.7 million for teacher professional development to help our educators become experts in Florida’s new Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Math.
- Hired 21 statewide regional literacy directors serving 16 regions throughout the state, an integral component to increase reading proficiency to 90% through the CARES Act.
- Covered the $850,000 cost to provide all educators with liability insurance to allow them to focus on doing what matters most – educating and inspiring their students to succeed in life.
- Secured $10 million to certify educators to teach computer science courses, and to provide bonuses to teachers who hold educator certificates or industry certifications in computer science.
- Continued the Federal School Improvement Grant funding to give highly effective and effective state teachers in D and F rated schools a recruiting allocation of $15,000 or $7,500, respectively.
- Provided Florida teachers a free fee waiver for teacher certifications that resulted in almost 125,000 free teacher certification exams, saving stakeholders more than $16 million to ease the financial and professional stress on Florida’s teachers. Additionally, the Department delayed teacher certification test requirements and will provide teachers with the opportunity to take those tests at no cost, so far eliminating the test costs for more than 22,000 teachers.
- Offered teacher training to prepare for online learning environments in the event of school closures, with a $200 stipend to teachers who completed the training through Florida Virtual School.
- Hit a major milestone, by lowering the operation time to process teacher certifications to less than 20 days to complete the teacher certification process, the lowest since 2009.
- In 2021, the Department will be implementing additional professional development resources at no additional charge to FTCE examinees in order to help prepare for and pass teacher certification exams.
Prioritizing Educational Choice Options for Florida’s Families and Students
- Expanded access to educational choice opportunities, while continuing to prioritize low-income families to ensure a world-class education is in reach for every student regardless of race, zip code or socio-economic status for school choice programs like the Family Empowerment Scholarship and Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (HB 7067).
- Increased the Family Empowerment Scholarship maximum enrollment cap to allow 47,000 students to benefit from Florida’s world-class school choice options (HB 7067).
- Fully funded the Gardiner Scholarship Program and its waitlist of 3,000 students at $190 million delivering on the commitment to our most vulnerable students with unique abilities.
- Provided 15,000 public school students in grades 3-5 with access to Reading Scholarship Accounts with $7.6 million to improve their literacy skills and ensure they read on grade level as they matriculate through middle and high school.
- Competitively awarded $78 million grant from the federal Charter Schools Program to support the start-up of new charter schools over the next five years, as well as provide technical assistance to charter operators and their school district sponsors.
- Waived the common placement requirements for college students wishing to participate in dual enrollment courses, allowing students who met the GPA requirements to participate in fall dual enrollment, and also waived the developmental education course allowing students to demonstrate their readiness for college through alternative methods.
- Adopted an amendment through the State Board of Education that allows students to use a passing score on the FSA Geometry EOC as a comparative score as yet another way for students to satisfy the Algebra 1 EOC graduation requirement.
Aligning Education to the Goals of Lifelong Learning, Civic Literacy and Support for our Military
- Completed the Florida civics standards review at the direction of Governor Ron DeSantis.
- Developed Florida’s Holocaust Standards. (SB 1628 and HB 1213).
- Revitalized and prioritized the Commissioner’s African American History Task Force and Holocaust Education Task Force.
- Extended the Early Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot Program that will assist selected school districts in implementing comprehensive music education programs for students in kindergarten through second grade (HB 156).
- Received $60 million in additional funding to serve children and families on the School Readiness Waitlist and $50 million to increase payments to School Readiness providers in selected areas.
- Florida was awarded one of the highly competitive Preschool Development Renewal grant. This grant provides an additional $13.4 million in funding each year for three years to build on existing framework and infrastructure to increase the quality, alignment and efficiency of Florida’s early childhood care and education mixed-delivery system of programs and services.
- Launched the statewide Florida Civics and Debate Initiative (FCDI) which will expand speech and debate programs throughout the state and engage students in civil discussions with the Legislature’s support of $925,000 and a $5 million multi-year commitment from the Marcus Foundation (HB 5001). Since FCDI’s inception, Florida has seen an increase of 83% in the number of students participating in speech and debate.
- Ensured that service members and veterans are able to earn a degree conveniently and efficiently by implementing a process to award postsecondary credit for training and education acquired during their military career at each of Florida’s public colleges and universities will help our heroes transition back to civilian life (HB 171).
- Modified school district residency requirements to accommodate military families with greater flexibility to enroll in school will give families peace of mind and make their transition to Florida easier (SB 662).
- Nearly 900 veterans, active military personnel, and their spouses registered for free FTCE exams under the Don Hahnfeldt Veteran and Military Family Opportunity Act of 2018. Under this program, almost 1,500 free FTCE exams have been administered, saving military personnel, veterans and their families $206,220 this year alone.
- Established the ability for military members or veterans of the United States armed forces to receive postsecondary credit or clock hours for prior military experience.
Creating Resilient Student’s Through First Lady Casey DeSantis’ Hope for Healing Initiative and Providing Safe and healthy Learning Environments
- Increased the Mental Health Assistance Allocation by $25 million, for a total of $100 million, to put more counselors and mental health professionals in our schools and to ensure more students have direct access to the care they need (HB 5001).
- Helped schools identify signs of emotional disturbance, mental illness and substance abuse with $5.5 million for Youth Mental Health Awareness, providing educators with the skills to help students experiencing or overcoming these issues (HB 945 and HB 5001).
- All Florida school districts completed the first year of implementation and reporting for the four new required instruction rules: 5 hours of mental health instruction in grades 6 – 12, substance use and abuse education, and child trafficking prevention education.
- Provided $ 2 million in grant funding to 18 rural Florida school districts to increase students’ access to mental health and student support services and to enhance access to school and community-based providers.
- The abuse hotline was readily available to students, parents, and educators by encouraging all Florida school districts to place and promote the hotline number in prominent locations on their district web pages and distance learning pages.
- Provided over $3.5 million for a Preschool Development Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Grant, through the Office of Early Learning to provide mental health sub-grants to enhance the skills of the early childhood workforce for improved classroom environments and individualized mental health services to children.
- Announced a partnership with T-Mobile’s Project 10 Million to provide 100GB of internet to over 600,000 Florida families over the next 5 years.
- Partnered with the Florida Department of Children and Families to provide nearly 1,000 devices to Florida children in foster care who are in need of a mobile technology device, such as laptop or notebook to help address the unique challenges to educational stability.
- Launched “The Facts. Your Future.” A statewide campaign which aims to provide Florida’s youth with the facts surrounding substance abuse and how it negatively impacts their lives.
- Lead the H.O.P.E Innovators, a statewide community-based team tasked with developing innovative ways to connect Florida students and parents with mental health information and resources.
- Created Hope Ambassadors, a youth peer-to-peer student mentorship program that will recruit student volunteers to work with their peers and help create an environment of kindness and compassion in their schools.
- The State Board of Education approved a rule that expedites reporting crimes and other offenses within 24 hours and created a pathway for rapid review by the department.
- Allowed private and charter schools to receive Medicaid reimbursements for services provided to students that are currently eligible for Medicaid (HB 81).
- Enhanced school safety measures with $180 million and $42 million for school hardening grants to improve the physical security of school buildings.
- Created Alyssa’s Law, requiring the Florida Department of Education to utilize $8 million and work with each public school to implement a panic alert system capable of connecting diverse emergency services technologies to ensure real-time coordination between multiple first responders (SB 70 & HB 5001).
- Increased the penalties for reckless individuals who endanger the lives of students by violating laws relating to stopping for a school bus (HB 37).
- Secured $2.5 million for Security Funding for Jewish Day Schools to provide security and counter-terrorism upgrades.
Expanded Opportunities for Students in Workforce & Post-Secondary Education
- For three consecutive years, Florida has earned the distinction of being the #1 state for higher education in the country (U.S. News & World Report); Florida colleges were awarded $23 million in tiered funding to help ensure our world-class ranked colleges continue their national dominance (HB 5001).
- All 28 Florida College System Institutions participated in the Last Mile Completion Program, which awards scholarship dollars to students to complete their course work if they were within 12 or fewer credit hours of earning their first associate or baccalaureate degree. Recently, two more students received the financial support they needed from North Florida College to finish that last mile and earn a degree.
- Broward College and Tallahassee Community College were both finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize, the nation’s signature recognition for America’s community colleges recognizing outstanding achievement in teaching, learning, certificate and degree completion, workforce success, and equitable outcomes for students.
- Continued the investment of $10 million for the Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant for 55 institutions to provide high-quality pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities to students by providing them with an avenue to help meet the needs of Florida’s rapidly growing workforce (HB 5001).
- Secured $6.5 million in performance funding for students earning industry certifications in high-skill, high-demand areas at career technical centers and secured $14 million in performance funding for students earning industry certifications in high-skill, high-demand areas at Florida College System institutions.
- Received an additional $450,000 from the United States Department of Labor to expand capacity to enroll registered apprentices, in addition to a $3 million grant used to enroll economically disadvantaged Floridians to apprenticeship opportunities.
- Launched Get There Florida, Florida’s premiere workforce education initiative to increase enrollment in Florida’s high quality career and technical education (CTE programs at Florida’s 28 state colleges and 48 technical college.
- The Perkins V State Plan was formally approved by Governor Ron DeSantis and subsequently by United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. This ensured the receipt of over $73 million to support school districts, technical colleges, and state colleges in delivering career and technical education to Florida students over the next 4 years.
- Launched the first entrepreneurship education and training grant, committing to an initial investment of $1 million to fund innovative secondary and postsecondary projects that cultivate entrepreneurial mindsets and capabilities in CTE students.
- Completed the first year of the CTE audit per Executive Order 19-31 and 1003.491(5), F.S., assessing all secondary and postsecondary CTE offerings at the state- and local-levels. The CTE audit continues to be a valuable means to assess for program quality and local market demand.
- Added 54 new industry certifications to the secondary & postsecondary industry certification funding lists, ensuring for maximum quality and alignment to industry demand.
- Received approval of Florida’s Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Unified State Plan (WIOA), ensuring $46 million to annually support adult education, adult basic education and high school equivalency programs.
- Allowed students who complete career certificate dual enrollment courses to be engaged in workforce learning opportunities and included in the school grading calculation (SB 434).
- Protected Floridians who may have fallen on hard times the ability to remain in the workforce by preventing the state from denying, suspending or refusing to renew certain occupational licenses solely because of late or delinquent student loan payments (HB 115).
- Continued investment of $10 million for computer science professional development to a
- Established the Florida Pathways Institute, a statewide effort to boost competition and improve the social and economic mobility of graduates.
- Awarded over $1 million dollars through the Florida College System Foundation in scholarships to students in allied health fields and students who are the first in their family to attend college.
- Successfully administered and awarded $35 million CARES Act dollars to state and technical colleges to rapidly enroll and complete students impacted by the pandemic in short-term but high-quality workforce credentialing programs and 16,000 program completers expected by May, 2021.
- Awarded $10.9 million CARES Act dollars to districts for K-12 CTE infrastructure and equipment to support in-demand CTE programs of study for K-12 students.
- Increased by 121% the number of students with disabilities participating in Work Based Learning Experience Opportunities.
- Assisted more than 40,000 Floridians with disabilities in workforce and job training and provided $24.5 million Pre-Employment Transition Services for students with disabilities.
- Expanded partnership with Homebuilders Association for On-the-Job-Training in the construction industry for students with disabilities.
- Developed the nation’s first statewide accessibility software program through the Division of Blind Services that enabled blind or visually impaired individuals to gain access to accessibility software free.