Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bills on early childhood learning, kindergarten readiness

Governor says bills will have big impact

Gov. Ron DeSantis signs education bills in Vero Beach. (News 6)

VERO BEACH, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis signed two bills designed to bolster early childhood learning and prepare students for kindergarten during a news conference in Vero Beach Tuesday afternoon.

The first bill, HB-419, focuses on accountability for early learning programs.

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“When I took office our kindergarten readiness was 42% and we need to do better than that. Thousands of Florida families rely on our voluntary pre-K system to prepare their children to be ready for kindergarten. This legislation for accountability will turn the tide for these families and their students and they will make them more prepared than ever to enter kindergarten. By prioritizing VPK programs to leverage the coordinated screening and progress monitoring programs established in this bill, we will be able to identify emergent literacy and mathematics skills deficiencies,” DeSantis said.

He said identifying those potential deficiencies will allow teachers to intervene before the student falls behind. As part of the bill, a timeline will be established to implement a new VPK accountability system that focuses on “outcomes, learning gains and observations of child-teacher interactions,” according to the governor.

The second bill, HB-711, will extend the progress monitoring tool so that it can be used through eighth grade so strategies can be developed for students who may need extra help on certain subjects.

“The system will also monitor the impact of interventions to provide additional support to keep students on track and growing at grade level. Providing this data in real time allows teachers to provide necessary and immediate interventions, instead of waiting until it’s too late,” DeSantis said.

Other provisions in the bill include establishing the Reading Achievement Initiative for Scholastic Excellence program, or RAISE.

“The RAISE program establishes a coordinated system of regional literacy support teams to go into communities and provide pivotal reading support where necessary. The RAISE program will also recruit top high school students to volunteer with high needs schools to help K through (grade) three struggling readers gain these vital reading skills,” DeSantis said.

Those volunteer hours can then be used toward Bright Futures scholarships.

“I think these are bills that are really, really going to make an impact and I think these are major sweeping reforms and I’m proud to be able to sign them into law,” DeSantis said.

From there, the governor traveled to Miami to sign another set of education bills aimed at early childhood education. The bill signing was held at West Miami Middle School.

The bills, HB 7011 and HB 419, focus on early childhood literacy programs in the state’s Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program

“This early learning is really, really significant. If you can make headway here, you’re going to see a positive ripple effect continue through many, many years of these students being in our system,” DeSantis said. “This took a lot of effort and these are really significant reforms, and I think they provide us with a way to improve readiness for kindergarten in particular.”

The governor was joined by members of the Florida legislature, including state Rep. Vance Aloupis who introduced both bills. The representative said that this bill will bring more accountability to the state’s pre-k program.

“It’s a program that serves 170,000 students every single year, but the dirty little secret of pre-k that we have fought for 10 years is that there has been no accountability in it,” Aloupis said. “As the governor said, it’s our responsibility to make sure that every child has that foundation that they need to thrive and it needs to be available to every child in Florida.”