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Florida Department of Education Celebrates 2023 Accomplishments

December 28, 2023

FDOE Press Office

Florida Department of Education Celebrates 2023 Accomplishments

~ Florida continues to shine as the nation’s Education State ~

Tallahassee, Fla., December 28, 2023 – As we reflect on 2023, the Florida Department of Education is honored to serve Florida’s nearly 3 million students, their families, and tens of thousands of world-class educators across the state. Under Governor Ron DeSantis’ leadership, Florida’s education system has once again delivered on the promise of increased educational opportunities for all students and continues to lead the nation as the Education State.

“This year’s education accomplishments are nothing short of extraordinary,” said Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “Governor DeSantis has led our state into excellence for yet another year, as we remained steadfastly committed putting students first, upholding parental rights, empowering educators and expanding school choice. It’s not an accident that Florida is ranked number one in education. As we move toward 2024, it is important to acknowledge that all children deserve the best education possible, and Florida is delivering on that promise.”

#1 State for Education

  • Florida is ranked as the number one state for education by U.S. News & World Report. Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, Florida improved its ranking from third to first.
  • Florida’s higher education system is ranked number one in the nation for the 7th straight year by U.S. News & World Report.
  • For the second year in a row, Florida has been recognized by the Heritage Foundation as the number one state for Education Freedom.
  • Florida was also ranked number one for education freedom by the ALEC Index of State Education Freedom: A 50-State Guide to Parental Empowerment.

Florida Leading the Nation in School Choice

  • In Spring of 2023, Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 1, creating universal school choice in Florida. This further cemented Florida’s position as the nation’s leader in school choice.
  • HB 1 eliminated the financial eligibility restrictions regarding scholarships and allows any student who is eligible to enroll in K-12 to participate in available school choice options.
  • Since HB 1 was signed into law, Florida has funded more than 377,000 school choice scholarships.
  • In addition, Governor DeSantis signed legislation following a special session to ensure any eligible student who applies for Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship for students with unique abilities is able to receive this scholarship.

Protecting Parental Rights and Safeguarding the Innocence of Students

  • The State Board of Education approved three administrative rules to protect parental rights as well as strengthen and enhance the safety and welfare of students in K-12 public schools.
    •  The State Board unanimously voted to designate restrooms and changing facilities in K-12 public and private schools as well as colleges for exclusive use by biological males or biological females, as stated in House Bill 1521, which was signed by Governor DeSantis this year.
    • Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 1069 in May of 2023 to further protect parent’s rights and ensure students are not exposed to inappropriate content. To implement the bill, the State Board approved rules relating to prohibited instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, the use of pronouns and personal titles in schools and the library materials objection process.
    • Additionally, the State Board approved a rule to implement House Bill 1438, which protects the innocence of students by ensuring they are not exposed to adult live entertainment while attending a school-sponsored event or activity.

Investing in Florida’s Students and Teachers

  • The Framework for Freedom Budget, signed by Governor DeSantis in June, provided a historic $26.8 billion for the state’s K-12 public school system.
    • The budget included a record $8,648 per-student funding in the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP), an increase of $405 from the previous year.
    • The state invested $1.1 billion, an increase of $252 million, to continue to raise salaries for new and veteran teachers. Since 2020, Florida has invested more than $3 billion to increase teacher pay.
    • The budget dedicated $1.7 billion for the Florida College System and $1.6 billion for early childhood education, including more than $427 million for Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK).

Empowering Teachers

  • In May 2023, Governor DeSantis signed the nation’s most comprehensive package of legislation focused on supporting teachers.
    • House Bill 1035 established the "Teachers' Bill of Rights" to maintain safety and order in classrooms. This legislation provides legal protection for teachers when intervening in fights or preventing assaults and empowers them to report any directive to break the law from their administration or school board.
      • House Bill 1035 also established a number of new programs to recruit and retain high quality teachers in Florida. This included:
        • Establishing a new teacher apprenticeship pathway,
        • Creating the Heroes in the Classroom Bonus program to incentivize retired veterans and first responders to join the teaching profession, and
        • Establishing the Dual Enrollment Teacher Scholarship to assist current teachers with obtaining graduate degrees in order to teach dual enrollment courses in their home districts.
    • House Bill 379 addresses social media and cell phone use in the classroom by granting teachers the authority to set rules on cell phone use during instructional times.
      • It also mandates website filtering to prevent students from accessing social media on district-owned computers and prohibits the use of TikTok on such devices.
      •  Additionally, the bill requires schools to educate students on the harmful effects of social media.
    • House Bill 256 protects teacher pay by prohibiting teachers’ unions from directly deducting dues from employee paychecks.
    • House Bill 1537 extends temporary teaching certificates from three years to five years and aims to enhance the quality of teacher preparation programs by eliminating bureaucratic requirements from certification and alternative certification programs.

Implementing Progress Monitoring

  • Florida was the first state in the nation to establish an accountability system based on progress monitoring, the Florida Assessment for Student Thinking (FAST). Unlike end-of-year high stakes testing, FAST provides teachers, students and parents real-time, immediate and actionable data at the beginning, middle and end of the school year to drive student improvement.
  • The 2022-23 FAST results showed students made substantial growth throughout the school year, including up to 42 percentage points in some subjects.

Becoming the #1 State in the Nation for Workforce Education by 2030

  • Governor DeSantis committed more than $6.8 billion to workforce education and training, making Florida number one in the nation for attracting and developing a skilled workforce.
  • During the 2022-23 academic year, there was an 8% increase in the number of postsecondary students participating in career and technical education (CTE) and nearly 800,000 K-12 students participated in CTE.
    • Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, Florida expanded access to high-wage, in-demand jobs for Florida’s high school and college students with the adoption of 15 new CTE programs, with new programs focusing on semiconductor manufacturing, cyber security, artificial intelligence and data science and machine learning.
  • Florida had a record 19,605 individuals serving as apprentices or preapprentices, a 14% increase in the active number of apprentices and preapprentices, an 11% increase in the number of registered apprenticeship and preapprenticeship programs and a 21% increase in the number of apprenticeable occupations since this time last year. Florida added 36 new registered apprenticeship programs and more than 5,000 new active apprentices.
  • Florida registered its first post-baccalaureate and pre-baccalaureate teacher apprenticeship programs, helping to create new pathways for individuals to become certified teachers without incurring debt. 
  • To support Florida’s apprenticeship and preapprenticeship programs, Governor Ron DeSantis awarded $14.4 million through the Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant (PCOG) to fund 57 proposals at Florida school districts, colleges, state universities and private training entities. The funding supported over 5,400 participants as they committed to receive on-the-job training and related classroom instruction simultaneously.
  • An additional $5 million was awarded by Governor DeSantis through the Pathways to Career Opportunities Grow Your Own Teacher Grant to expand opportunities for teacher apprenticeships in Florida. This funding strengthened the state’s teacher pipeline by creating a no-cost apprenticeship pathway to the teaching profession to help more than 200 teachers per year become credentialed.
  • During the 2022-23 academic year, there was a 17% increase in the number of individuals enrolled in adult education and English learning acquisition programs, with over 500 registered integrated education and training programs providing students with accelerated access to in-demand workforce credentials.   
  • Governor DeSantis awarded $7.5 million in performance funding for adult education programs and career technical centers and colleges to invest in increasing the quality of and access to short-term, in-demand credential programs. 

Developing Active and Informed Citizens

  • The Civics Seal of Excellence endorsement was launched in January of 2023 and more than 10,000 teachers registered for the course in the first week it was open. This program is a 50-hour endorsement program available to Florida teachers as part of Florida’s Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative. More than 18,000 teachers have received the Civics Seal of Excellence endorsement.

Increasing Our Commitment to Jewish Day Schools and School Safety

  • Following the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists, Governor DeSantis directed the Florida Legislature to increase funding for the safety of Florida’s Jewish community, which is the third largest in the country.
    • On November 13, 2023, Governor DeSantis signed legislation to allocate an additional $45 million for enhanced security at Jewish institutions, including Jewish day schools.

Recovering from Hurricane Idalia

  • Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ leadership, 53 out of Florida’s 75 school districts successfully reopened 24 hours after Hurricane Idalia made landfall, setting a record for the speedy recommencement of school operations. Just one week after Hurricane Idalia hit Florida, all school districts were open and serving students.
  • Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez and Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. visited school districts impacted by Hurricane Idalia to support their recovery efforts. They surveyed the damage at schools, identified and provided essential resources for districts to resume operations, and offered unwavering support to teachers and families during their recovery efforts.
  • Governor DeSantis awarded $2 million from the Florida Disaster Fund’s to six school foundations located in the counties hit hardest by Hurricane Idalia. These funds were used to purchase supplies for families still recovering from the storm.
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