Both sides of the school choice debate greeted the appointment of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran as an omen.
With the Legislative Session closed, Florida’s top school administration gave lawmakers high marks.
“It was an absolutely amazing Legislative Session for our students, parents and teachers,” he said.
“Governor [Ron] DeSantis – in partnership with legislative leaders like President [Bill] Galvano, Speaker [Jose] Oliva – brought a renewed focus to rewarding our best teachers, better preparing our students with high quality lifelong and career learning opportunities, expanding choices for Florida’s families, investing massively in our public schools, intensifying Florida’s focus on safer schools, keeping the dream of a college education affordable and directing more dollars directly to classrooms.”
Above all, he celebrated an increase in education spending.
That includes a $75 increase in base student allocation public education spending following the session. That’s the biggest increase since 2015.
He also noted a $242.60 per student increase to the Florida Education Finance Program and a $782.9 increase in total funds to the FEFP.
Corcoran celebrated a $284.5 million recurring investment in Florida’s Best and Brightest teachers and principals, more than a $50-million investment.
He also said teachers will appreciate having three years now to pass a General Knowledge Test thanks to provides of an Education package (SB 7070).
Corcoran praised a $10 allotment for the Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant Program, creating a pathway for vocational education. And he appreciated $10 million going toward training teachers in computer science.
New “reverse transfer” rules requested by state colleges saw passage, letting students bring university credits back to smaller schools to finish degrees. And the Legislature authorized a Last Mile College Completion program t9o help students finish higher education.
The state also increased funding incentives for districts and college industry certification programs by $2 and $4 million. And another $30 million will now go to colleges’ student success programs like the Work Florida Incentive Fund and 2 + 2 Student Success Incentive Fund.
Most notably, Corcoran praised substantial expansions in the arena of school choice.
He called the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program historic, and said it will offer a “lifeline” to 18,000 students, including the nearly 13,000 students on the wait list Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program.
He called a $147.9 million investment in the Gardiner Scholarship Program a “game changer” for the 1,900 wait listed students with special needs.
And after criticism of Florida Virtual School leadership in the past, Corcoran welcomed a review, while saying the online resource provides a valuable service.
He praised further investment in school security and mental health funding for schools.
Corcoran also celebrated putting civics into class and praised legislation (SB 620) that ensures school districts accept a change of station order as proof of residency for all public school programs. Hat way active duty members, spouses and their dependents are classified as residents for tuition purposes.
“Simply said, this year was truly an historic year for education,” Corcoran said.