DeSantis signs bills that aim to improve early childhood education, literacy


VERO BEACH — Hoping to boost kindergarten readiness and create better school accountability statewide, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed two bills into law aimed at improving early childhood education and literacy.

DeSantis, speaking in Vero Beach on Tuesday, signed House Bill 7011 – Student Literacy, and House Bill 419 – Early Learning and Early Grade Success. Both bills, which are now state law, require screenings and progress monitoring for children enrolled in the Voluntary Pre-kindergarten Education Program.

“When I took office, our kindergarten readiness was 42 percent. We need to do better than that,” DeSantis said at a 1 p.m. news conference held inside of the Childcare Resources Center, an early childhood education and development non-profit organization in Vero Beach. “HB 419 makes meaningful improvements to state accountability for our early learning programs.”

The Student Literacy law will require the state’s Department of Education to coordinate an academic monitoring system for children from voluntary pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, according to the Florida Senate website. The Early Learning and Early Grade Success law will require students to be monitored from voluntary pre-kindergarten through third grade.

The Student Literacy law will also make revisions to student literacy skill improvements. It also will establish a Reading Achievement Initiative for Scholastic Excellence Program with the Department of Education.

The Early Learning and Early Grade Success law will revise approved childcare or early education settings for certain children. The law also will also create a new accountability system based on performance metrics that include student outcomes, learning gains, and observations of child and teacher interactions.

Both laws focus on providing intensive, personalized interventions to students who have deficiencies in literacy, mathematics skills, reading and other subjects. State officials said the laws could have 90 percent of Florida’s third graders reading on grade level by 2030.

Lawmakers who helped push the bill through Congress were also in attendance. Senator Gayle Harrell, Representative Erin Grall, Representative Vance Aloupis Jr. and Senator Debbie Mayfield spoke about the importance of the new legislation.

“This is where you help kids get their big start. This will help bring transparency to the system,” Harrell said. “We measure success based on learning gains. We will continue to help children make progress.”

Harrell said the state usually spends about $400 million a year on the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program. The program provides free pre-kindergarten classes for all 4-year-olds.

The cost for the additional monitoring system was unclear.

Harrell said the new laws are a major step in the right direction to continue to make Florida the number one state for education.

Harrell said she and Grall had been working on the Early Learning and Early Grade Success bill for the past three years. Grall, who held up her five-month old child Sebastian, thanked Childcare Resources for hosting the event.

Grall previously served as a board member and president at the non-profit. Grall said Childcare Resources taught her the importance of early learning.

“It has been so exciting to continue that work in the Florida Capitol,” Grall said. “This policy is about empowering parents and families. It’s about giving parents the information they need at the critical time in a child’s life to make the best decisions for their children.”

Photos by Kaila Jones

This story will be updated. 

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