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Digital Learning Gets Shortchanged In Senate Ed Budget Plans

The Senate’s Education Appropriations Subcommittee has released a budget that boosts K-12 education funding by more than a billion dollars. The figure includes additional funds for performance-based teacher pay raises, and restores cuts to state universities. But the first draft of the budget falls short of funding for the state’s transition to digital education.

According to the Florida Department of Education, there are more than 1600 public schools that don't have wireless internet service, and 263 schools without basic broadband access. The Department wanted $440 million to fund digital learning, but the Senate Education Appropriations subcommittee has only allocated $76 million.

Senator David Simmons (R-Maitland), says he’s concerned the state won’t meet its 2016 digital transition deadline.

“I’ve always questioned that timeline that we went ahead and put in knowing that it is going to be exceedingly difficult to do.”   

The Senate’s spending plan only addresses internet access, while the Department’s proposal includes money to purchase new devices. The state wants students to begin learning on technology-based platforms. Committee Chairman Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), says the proposal is only a starting point and could change later in the process.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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