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Florida Department of Education highlights achievements during 2021

Funding for teachers, parents' rights highlighted
Florida Education
Posted at 1:10 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 15:50:32-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The Florida Department of Education released a list Monday of accomplishments it achieved this year.

The department noted Gov. Ron DeSantis’ involvement in multiple aspects of its success in 2021.

FDOE notes that parents’ right to choose what is best for their children was strengthened this year.

FDOE notes in November of the signing of legislation that, among other things, protects parents’ rights to make healthcare decisions for students.

In-person instruction was secured for the 2020-21 and the 2021-22 academic years.

House Bill 7045, which was sign into law, provides more education opportunities for children from low-income families and students with unique abilities. The bill expands eligibility for low-income students, prioritizes military, foster, and adopted students and empowers military families to maximize their school choice options by exempting the dependents of a member of the United States Armed Forces from any limitations of waitlists or maximum scholarship program enrollment.

FDOE also amended the Hope Scholarship guidelines to clarify that COVID-19 harassment was an acceptable condition to determine a student’s eligibility for the program.

Financially supporting public education

  • Secured the highest ever per-pupil spending totals at $7,795 per student in the 2020-2021 fiscal year. 
  • Secured the highest ever K-12 public school funding, with $22.8 billion in state and local funding. 
  • Received and implemented a $53.42 per student increase to the Base Student Allocation for the Florida Education Finance Program. 
  • Ensured that school districts were held harmless from any reduction in funding as a result of decreased enrollment due to the pandemic. 

With the help of the state legislator, the department was able to secure funding to support the state’s public-school teachers.

The funding was used to raise the minimum salaries for teachers from $40,000 to 46,0000, provide up to $1,000 for eligible public-school principals with disaster relief payments and more than 75,000 child care and early learning educator received $1,000 disaster relief payments.

Low performing schools improved during the pandemic.

  • 54 out of 132 traditional public schools improved their performance to a “C” or better, allowing them to exit the state’s school improvement system. 
  • The Florida Department of Education awarded $44 million in federal Unified School Improvement Grant (UniSIG) funds to support 149 struggling schools in 29 districts. The funds provided through UniSIG will be used to support school improvement initiatives in Florida’s lowest performing 5% of schools. 
  • Teachers at these low performing schools who have earned highly effective or effective ratings can receive up to $15,000. 
  • Principals may qualify for up to $45,000 for recruitment/retention and performance, and one assistant principal from each school may also qualify for $10,000 for recruitment/retention. 

Improving educational standards and student achievement

  • In 2020, Florida adopted the new Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts to begin the process of eliminating Common Core from Florida’s classrooms. As a follow up, Governor DeSantis announced a legislative proposal that will eliminate the common-core based, end-of-year, high-stakes Florida Statewide Assessment and create the new Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (F.A.S.T) plan, which will monitor student progress and foster individual growth. With this transition to statewide progress monitoring for school accountability, Florida will restore the ability for parents and teachers to have impactful conversations about students’ growth and inform parents’ ability to help their children. 
  • The State Board of Education adopted new student performance standards that will strengthen Florida’s already nationally-recognized education standards. The standards approved include Holocaust Education, Civics and Government, Character Education and Substance Abuse Prevention. 
  • Florida vaulted to #2 in the nation for successful Advanced Placement (AP) performance, with 34.2 percent of the graduating class of 2020 scoring a 3 or higher on an AP exam while in high school, according to the 2020 AP Cohort Data Report from the College Board. 
  • Florida students exceeded the national average (24.4 percent) by nearly 10 percentage points, bypassed Massachusetts (34.0 percent) and is second only to Connecticut (34.5 percent). 
  • Florida is the #1 state in the nation for having the highest AP exam participation rate. 
  • Florida has eliminated the AP participation and performance gap for its Hispanic students. Hispanic students made up approximately 32 percent of the 2020 graduating class in Florida, yet they accounted for 37.5 percent of AP exam takers and 41.6 percent of the graduates scoring 3 or higher on an AP exam during high school. 
  • At an average rate of $212.33 per credit hour, the total potential cost savings for Florida’s students and families was $146,782,243. 

For more information, visit the Florida Department of Education website.