FORT PIERCE, Fla. /Florida Newswire/ — On Thursday (July 22), Governor Ron DeSantis celebrated the signing of House Bill 3 and announced that Florida is investing $270 million in literacy initiatives throughout the state. On June 29, Governor DeSantis signed HB 3, creating the “New Worlds Reading Initiative,” Florida’s first statewide book distribution program. Through this new program, children in kindergarten through fifth grade who are reading below grade level are eligible to receive free, high-quality books delivered directly to their home. In addition to the New Worlds Reading Initiative, which represents a $200 million investment, Florida is also utilizing an additional $71 million to fund and support other important literacy initiatives. Together, these initiatives total a more than $270 million investment.

Florida Gov Ron DeSantis 2019
FILE PHOTO: Florida Gov Ron DeSantis.

“As a father of three young children, I want every child to have the opportunity to achieve their full potential,” said Governor DeSantis. “The biggest difference we can make in setting Florida children up for success is making sure they know how to read. I’m proud to celebrate these investments in literacy today that ensure every student – regardless of their socio-economic status – has access to free, high-quality books. Thank you to Representative Trabulsy, Senator Burgess, Speaker Sprowls and President Simpson for prioritizing Florida’s children.”

“Literacy is foundational to learning and is probably the most pressing issue facing our students today,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Education is freedom – the great equalizer. Research shows that providing books to students both empowers parents to engage with their child’s reading activities and improves the student’s reading skills. I deeply appreciate Governor DeSantis’ and legislative leaders’ focus on reading and literacy, and putting our students on a path to a great life.”

“Governor DeSantis has made access to quality education and early learning a priority in his administration, and the work he and Commissioner Corcoran have done will have a positive impact on students for generations to come,” said Speaker Chris Sprowls. “The profound effect providing books and materials to empower children and parents is immeasurable. If one book serves to inspire one child or enable one family to break the cycle of generational poverty so many struggling readers face, then every moment spent on this initiative will have been worth it. This legislation would not have been possible if not for the hard work of members like Representative Trabulsy, Chairman Latvala, and of course, our partners in the Senate. All of us are committed to ensuring every child in Florida has the tools, freedom, and ability to reach their full educational potential.”

“Reading is the first tool in the toolbox for a child to build the foundation of a better life,” said Senator Danny Burgess. “As a father to three young children, I know that reading helps them to explore the world within the pages and opens their minds to greater possibilities. Thank you Governor DeSantis for signing this important bill, and thank you to President Simpson and Speaker Sprowls for championing childhood literacy.”

“Reading is the key to unlocking a world of possibilities,” said Representative Dana Trabulsy. “The New Worlds Reading Initiative extends access to books, partnerships and tools for students and parents to achieve their educational goals. I am grateful to Governor Ron DeSantis and Speaker Chris Sprowls for prioritizing gains in literacy and investing in an innovative approach to empowering Florida’s students to achieve their full potential.”

Funding for The New Worlds Reading Initiative, created by HB 3, totals $200 million. This funding will be used for book distribution, which helps improve literacy and close achievement gaps as a part of Florida’s goal to be the #1 state for literacy in the nation.

Florida is also investing an additional $71 million to fund and support other important literacy initiatives aimed at improving student achievement through the utilization of CRRSA ESSER II funds:

  • $61 million to support direct student interventions, including targeted individual or small group literacy tutoring for students in kindergarten through first grade;
  • $4 million to provide elementary school principals and assistant principals with effective practices to help them focus on improving literacy within their schools;
  • $3 million for Literacy Coach Boot Camps to improve the skills and proficiency of literacy coaches; and
  • $2.8 million to continue statewide progress monitoring through the Department of Education for grades K-8.

With the New Worlds Reading Initiative and CRRSA ESSER II funding, Governor DeSantis, legislative leaders and Commissioner Corcoran are building on the tremendous investments already made in education this year:

  • In early May, Governor DeSantis signed two bills, HBs 419 and HB 7011, which allow districts to use existing allocations to fund intensive interventions for Prekindergarten students, create a coordinated system of statewide literacy support and create a new initiative to recruit high school rising seniors to serve as literacy tutors for struggling Kindergarten through third grade students.
  • In the Florida Leads budget, Florida allocated $215 million to provide teachers and principals with $1,000 payments in recognition of their dedication to Florida’s students throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Also in the Florida Leads budget, Florida allocated another $550 million – an increase of $50 million – to further its commitment to raising the minimum teacher salary to $47,500; and
  • Florida used $35 million in CARES Act funding last school year for literacy initiatives.
    • $5 million to build capacity for reading by designing, deploying and monitoring teacher and school leader professional development trainings. (CARES ESSER I)
    • $5 million to deploy Regional Support Teams to support and reinforce professional development and coaching models deployed on a statewide basis. (CARES ESSER I)
    • $5 million to develop and train Regional Literacy Coaches to provide support and guidance to district teachers in the classroom. (CARES ESSER I)
    • $20 million to help districts adopt and implement Florida’s new B.E.S.T. Standards aligned curriculum and supplemental instructional materials to drive teaching and learning in reading for Grades K-3. (CARES ESSER I)

SOURCE: Office of Governor Ron DeSantis