Business group offers 20-year education plan for Florida

The priorities connect closely with the accountability model championed by the state’s Republican leadership.
Cotee River Elementary School fourth-graders work on their writing skills.
Cotee River Elementary School fourth-graders work on their writing skills.
Published Sept. 11, 2019

The Florida Council of 100, a nonprofit group of civic and business leaders, on Wednesday released its vision for the state’s education system over the coming 20 years.

Many of the top values associated with the primary goal — ensuring students are well prepared for the ever changing world of life and work — correlate with many of the priorities set by the Republican dominated leadership that has driven the state’s education policies since the late 1990′s.

They include accountability, choice, personalized learning, performance based rewards and data-driven decisions. The group also calls for increasing salaries as part of a larger strategy to get top teachers into classrooms, improving early education offerings and providing more career and technical education options.

In a press release, the group noted the state’s continuing gains in academic achievement, such as rising graduation rates and Florida’s rank of fourth nationally in the Education Week academic achievement category. It said the strong leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis and education commissioner Richard Corcoran have Florida poised for even greater heights.

“As business leaders, we know that education is the building block of prosperity,’’ said John Kirtley, Chairman of the Council’s K-12 Education Committee. “We want to ensure every student in Florida gets the education that prepares them for success for years to come.’’

Kirtley is the founder of Step Up for Students, the state’s largest scholarship funding organization. It oversees such programs as the Tax Credit Scholarship, reading scholarship and the newly implemented school voucher program, among many others.

In the 48-page document (downloadable here), the group stresses the need to spend as much resources on students as possible, and not on things unrelated to learning.

DeSantis campaigned on a platform of dedicating 80 percent of education funds to the classroom. That initiative has never been defined. DeSantis also has spoken about the importance of having the funding follow the students, regardless of where they are taught.

The group also offered several schools it found to offer best practices. The list included a variety of private, district and charter schools.

The Council of 100 spent about three years putting together its report and recommendations. It is likely to play a role in future discussions on legislative initiatives.