Patricia Levesque: FFF 2024 Legislative Report Cards — who made the grade?
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A+ grade
Lawmakers earn their grades for the year based on their votes and leadership on bills and amendments in committees and on the floor.

Florida lawmakers have wrapped up another Legislative Session where priority education issues from accountability to school choice to workforce development took center stage.

Lawmakers built on past successes and covered a lot of ground, taking bold action to increase student success and maintain Florida’s status as the best state in the nation to learn, work, and live.

Each year following Florida’s Legislative Session, the Foundation for Florida’s Future ranks lawmakers on advancing key education issues and produces a report card much like teachers prepare grades for students and schools. These ratings provide a valuable tool for all Floridians to measure their lawmakers’ support for student-centered education policies, which are the Foundation’s priorities.

Lawmakers earn their grades for the year based on their votes and leadership on bills and amendments in committees and on the floor.

This year saw successful, bipartisan support for critically important education policies — but also opposition to proven, long-standing policies that have contributed to Florida’s education success over the years. As a result, fewer lawmakers earned top grades than in past years. For this Legislation Session, 95 of 160 lawmakers received ‘A’ grades on the Foundation’s 2024 report card.

Below are highlights of this year’s education progress. We hope the legislators’ grades serve to build momentum and ensure student success remains at the center of every conversation Florida lawmakers have when it comes to education policy.

Preventing harmful effects from social media

For our children to be successful in the classroom, we must ensure that they wake up each day prepared to learn.

Yet social media corporations too often have their own objectives to lure children to participate using complex algorithms designed for profit, with little concern for the impact on childhood mental health.

House Speaker Paul Renner’s priority legislation requiring common-sense limits on social media access was signed by Gov. DeSantis. It should improve the declining mental health of Florida’s youth and liberate children from unhealthy habits that diminish their ability to fully enjoy life.

Expanding access to learning options

Florida has long been a national leader in providing key components of quality education: learning options for families, early literacy support for students, and pathways into college and the workforce after graduation.

But success is never final, and any pause on improving these policies will lead to a slow slide toward stagnant mediocrity. Florida leaders took action to prevent that.

A year after Florida enacted universal school choice for every family and student, lawmakers kept their foot on the gas. House Bill 1403 contains a number of improvements that will benefit students with unique abilities and streamline the state’s scholarship programs.

Similarly, Florida’s early literacy policies are a model for the nation, yet lawmakers recognized room for improvement. House Bill 1361 streamlines tutoring policies and expands access to scholarships for specialized intervention.

And House Bill 917 will help educators and families by identifying best practices in career and technical education and by further aligning learning options with employer needs.

Ensuring Florida’s strong accountability system

Some Senate lawmakers entered this year’s Session with a proposal to allow more students to enter fourth grade without being able to read at grade level and allow students to graduate high school without demonstrating mastery of basic writing and math skills.

This anti-accountability and choice package would have crippled our ability to ensure kids were ready to move to the fourth grade and reduced the value of the high school diploma students earned.

Thankfully and ultimately, policymakers rejected these ideas, safeguarding important policies that keep the system honest and focused on student achievement.

After listening to families, educators and experts, lawmakers unanimously approved legislation that cuts red tape in our schools — the kind of deregulation we very much need — while retaining critical accountability measures.

Investing in and supporting teachers

The House and Senate approved a balanced budget that increases per-student funding and teacher salaries and invests in proven education programs and policies. From incentives and bonuses for positive learning outcomes to new funding for everything from scholarships to tutoring, this year’s budget is a clear statement and commitment from our state to keep striving for excellence.

Notably, lawmakers also created a new program to establish district grants to support student and teacher access to safe and effective artificial intelligence-enabled educational platforms. This emerging technology has the potential to boost student learning and reduce the workload for our hardworking teachers.

While there is much to celebrate this year, there is still much to do. We are proud to recognize lawmakers who dedicated their time and energy to students and educators this year. We look forward to working with them in the coming months and years to tirelessly advance policies that ensure success for all students and our beloved state.

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Patricia Levesque is the executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future.

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