In a recent speech, Governor Scott expressed his plans to budget $18.8 billion for the state’s public schools in fiscal year 2015. The amount is significantly higher than 2014, a $542 million increase. It is clear that the governor is committed to funding education. In his inaugural year, the budget declined by $1.3 billion. In addition to funding schools, Governor Scott has also promised to increase teacher pay.
For higher education, the move is toward almost double funds available for performance funding. The funds reward higher retention and graduation rates; they also include job placement or graduate school. The rewards will work well for schools with high completion rates, but universities and colleges with higher dropout rates or low job placement will not receive the extra funding. Performance funding also emphasizes the focus on STEM.
No Education bills have been passed so far in 2015, but Governor Scott has made headlines with his official order to suspend the 11th Grade ELA test for students this year. “Governor Scott called the Florida Standards Assessment English Language Arts test – or FSA ELA – ‘unnecessary’ for 11th graders. He says a 10th grade test with the same name is all that’s required for graduation. The 10th grade test will be the final ELA test for K-12 students in Florida.” The move is a direct response to pressures to decrease testing in schools. However, new tests, the Florida Standards Assessment, will be administered to 2 million students on March 2nd. According to the Orlando Sentinel, “Florida law makes participation in state tests mandatory for all public-school students. ‘There is no opt out clause,’ [Education Commissioner Pam Stewart] wrote in a recent letter to state senators.”
After a disastrous roll out of the new ELA tests this
March, where many students were unable to log in to the computerized testing
programs, the public and teachers are asking that the tests for this year not
count for the decisions to advance from 3rd grade or for the 10th grade test
takers to graduate. The State of Florida’s approach to testing will be very interesting to watch over the next year.