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Fla. Gov. Scott Signs Landmark Education Reform Bill

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed an education bill into law today on Monday that he says should help more high school students graduate and go on to do a job that suits them. The bipartisan bill would give students more ways to earn a high school diploma, including through technical certification programs.

Florida Senate President Don Gaetz was all smiles Monday morning before the bill signing.

“This is the most important piece of legislation I have worked on in the seven years I have been in the Florida Senate,” he said.

Gaetz has long been pushing for education reform that ties educational requirements more closely to available jobs.

“There is one gap, one significant and searing gap in our educational system, and that is making sure that we hard-wire what we do in our K-12 schools, in our colleges and universities to the realities and the opportunities of the economy,” he said.

It’s an extensive bill—some are calling it an education revolution. Among its many provisions is one that gives high school students a few options for how they’d like to earn a diploma. Every incoming high school student will choose a either a college-preparatory program or a career-preparatory program. The second option would allow them to take some general education classes while earning a technical certification in something like manufacturing.

Orange County Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins says, this is the best system to ensure all students are successful, whether they want to go to college or not.

“We are absolutely certain that this legislation creates additional pathways for students who can be successful and have very high-paying careers when they leave high school in career and technical education,” she said.

House Speaker Will Weatherford said, passing this bill has been a priority for both houses of the legislature and the governor.

“To me, when we talk about policymaking, what the role of government is in the state of Florida, there is nothing more seminal, more important than the education of our children,” he said.

In addition to creating multiple pathways to a high school diploma, the bill also extends funding for universities that have the most graduates in technology fields. Bernie Machen is president of the University of Florida, one of four state schools getting the funding.

“I think with this legislation, the University of Florida will take a step forward to become one of the preeminent universities in the country,” he said.

The bill also creates a talent-identification program to encourage middle-schoolers who are very good at math and science to attend a state school. It also has new career-readiness requirements for people in adult-education programs. And it adds a financial literacy component to high school economics classes.

Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said, all of these changes will combine to help more of Florida’s students get jobs after graduation.

“Thanks to the governor for doing something as governor of the state of Florida that I think is a challenge and a model for governors all across the country, and that is to make sure that the American dream doesn’t become the American memory,” he said.

Gov. Scott said, when he talks to students across the state, the No. 1 concern they have is getting a job.

“Senate bill 1076 will make sure our students are prepared for college and careers and have the skills to compete in an ever-competitive global marketplace,” he said.

Despite their collaboration on the bill, Scott and the legislature still differ on one key point about education. Scott is pushing for across-the-board pay raises for all K-12 teachers, while the legislature is proposing a merit-based raise. Two weeks remain in the legislative session for that difference to be resolved.