Education leaders spotlight ‘Learn Local’ initiative, early education, and student absenteeism ahead of session

by | Dec 11, 2023

  • The Consortium of Florida Education Foundations and the Florida Philanthropic Network on Monday hosted a webinar discussing the upcoming 2024 legislative session’s focus on educational reforms. 
  • Senator Alexis Calatayud led initial discussions on the “Learn Local” initiative aimed at streamlining educational assessments and instructional protocols, emphasizing adaptability, innovation, and student safety.
  • Calatayud, alongside other legislators, is working on early childhood education reforms, including tax credits for early learning, improved licensure for educators, and expanded eligibility for school readiness programs.
  • The webinar also addressed Senate Bill 460, focusing on expanding career and technical education, and the issue of student absenteeism, which has implications for learning outcomes and school funding, with approximately 987,000 Florida students missing significant school time.

With the 2024 legislative session quickly approaching, the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations and the Florida Philanthropic Network on Monday hosted a webinar focusing on upcoming educational reforms and highlighting key legislative initiatives.

Led by Sen. Alexis Calatayud, initial discussions centered around the “Learn Local” initiative, which seeks to streamline various aspects of the educational system, including assessments and instructional protocols.

“Our objective is to foster a more adaptable and innovative educational environment, all while maintaining a steadfast focus on student safety and academic performance,” Calatayud noted.

The legislative package, part of a broader move to shift educational decision-making to local authorities, encompasses SPB 7000, 7002, and 7004. The bills collectively focus on deregulating aspects of public school operations, enhancing autonomy in teacher certification, personnel management, and financial administration, as well as granting greater flexibility in student progression and instructional methodologies.

Notably, the legislation emphasizes local oversight in teacher contracts, salary schedules, and streamlining educational processes, while maintaining critical safety and accountability standards.

“We’re excited, philosophically, and in all real terms, to equalize the playing field for our public [schools] with the new ecosystem that we have launched in Florida after HB 1,” said Calatayud. “Our true belief is to be a partner. with the highest quality, and make sure that all of the education providers have the ability to be flexible [and] be creative in a way that in no way jeopardizes our focuses.”

Calatayud subsequently stated that she, in collaboration with Sen. Erin Grall and Reps. Dana Trubulsy and Fiona McFarland, is working on early childhood education measures. The reforms, according to the Senator, include three key bills: one providing tax credits for early learning, another improving licensure processes for early childhood educators, and a third expanding eligibility for school readiness programs and updating reimbursement rates.

The panel also discussed Senate Bill 460, introduced by Sen. Corey Simon, which concentrates on expanding career and technical education opportunities for students. The legislation proposes allowing 16 and 17-year-old students to gain hands-on experience in trades, broadening their career options beyond traditional college routes.

The webinar further addressed the issue of student absenteeism, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its potential impact on learning outcomes and school funding.

Last week, the House Education Quality Subcommittee was given a presentation that highlighted that approximately 987,000 students in Florida miss 10 percent or more of the school year, which is about 18 days in a 180-day academic year.

“We should expect more conversation going into session about absenteeism because not only is there a concern about children not being educated, there’s also a fiscal impact,” said Darrick D. McGhee. “Schools get funding based on kids and classes.”


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