An Increased Investment in Education

For more than 30 years, I have worked with and on behalf of Florida students and I can honestly say this is the best time for education I have experienced. Florida has been recognized as a national leader for student achievement and teacher preparation and, to build on these successes, Governor Rick Scott has proposed historic funding for K-12 education, as well as policies that will help Florida students earn a college diploma faster and with less debt.

Commissioner Pam Stewart Highlights Governor Scott’s Historic K-12 Funding Announcement During Florida Cabinet Meeting.Our graduation rates are at an 11-year high, we’re ranked 7th in the nation for K-12 academic achievement and we have been successful at narrowing the achievement gap between African American and white students.

I credit the hardworking teachers and school staff members who come in early, leave late and spend the extra one-on-one time with students so that they are prepared for success in the classroom and in life.

In January, Governor Rick Scott unveiled his 2015-2016 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” Budget, and I pleased to share his strategic education investments:

  • $19.75 billion in total funding for K-12 public schools, an increase of $842.5 million;
  • $7,176 per student funding, an increase of $261 over the current school year and $50 above Florida’s previous record in 2007-2008;
  • $20 million to create a Rapid Response Start-up Grant program for technical centers;
  • $5 million to incentivize $10,000 STEM degrees at Florida Colleges;
  • $1 million to facilitate partnerships with high-tech Florida companies;
  • $80 million to assist districts in implementing their Digital Classroom plans;
  • $164.6 million for maintenance, repair, and renovation of public schools educational facilities;
  • $100 million for maintenance, repair, and restoration of charter schools;
  • $23.5 million to expand Bright Futures to cover summer term courses; and
  • The elimination of sales tax on college textbooks.

I had the honor of joining Governor Scott at Atlantic Technical College in Broward County where he announced his proposal to increase per-pupil funding in the 2105-16 fiscal year, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Governor Scott is truly a champion for education; we already had the highest total spending for our state’s education system last year and he is the first governor to have a specific appropriation dedicated to teacher pay raises.

Last year, Florida invested a total of $18.9 billion in K-12 education, which was the highest to that point. Now, the Governor is proposing an increase for a new record total of $19.75 billion to ensure Florida’s students have access to a world-class education. This amounts to a $261 per-student increase over this school year and a $50 increase from the previous record.

I credit Governor Scott’s commitment to job creation and overall economic growth for enabling us to have the additional funds to invest in education.  I am confident that this investment will pay off for years to come as graduating students will be able to contribute to Florida’s economy once they enter the workforce.

Florida students are fortunate to have many of the nation’s best principals and teachers, and this new proposed funding will ensure they have the necessary resources to continue thriving.

To learn more and hear what stakeholders have to say, click here.

Getting to a 98 percent passing rate

Guest post by DOE Director of Faith and Community Outreach Joyce Hobson

You always hear a lot about how parents should be involved with their children’s education, but how do you measure the effectiveness of involvement?

Tired of sitting in formal, tense parent-teacher conferences, Ms. Donna Harla of Landmark Middle School in Duval County has figured out one way.

Through the Parent Collaboration Program she created, teachers designate 30 minutes every Friday for parents to stop by the classroom. The initiative avoids lengthy scheduling processes between parents, teachers and administrators and increases parents’ access to their child’s education, which allows relationships to build.

Since the initiation of the program in 2008, she has seen a 98 percent passing rate amongst her students.

This is just one of the many efforts going on around the state to increase the communication between parents and teachers. It is the little things – knowing what is going on at the schools, talking about homework policies and lesson plans, meeting other students and teachers in the school, becoming a familiar face – that break down communication barriers.

Does your student’s school have any parental involvement programs? Do you volunteer in your child’s class or attend events? How do you show your support for your student? Please feel free to share!

Giving Florida students an edge in the global economy

Guest post by DOE Educational Policy Development Director Lydia Southwell

In today’s marketplace, we are not just working with and competing with the person next to us, we are a part of a global economy and need to ensure our students are prepared for the challenge.

As we celebrate International Education Week this year, it is a good opportunity to reflect and promote the importance of “Inspiring Students Locally to Succeed Globally,” the theme for this year’s celebration.

So what is Florida doing to prepare its students?

Many Florida school districts offer dual language programs, which means part of the school day is taught in another language.

Some districts also offer special exchange programs, such as Palm Beach County’s relationship with the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kingdom of Spain. The effort allows some Florida teachers to teach in Spain and some Spanish teachers to teach in Florida. The experience is beneficial for both the students and the teachers. The district’s students also have the opportunity to hold live online chat sessions with Spanish students.

Colleges and universities throughout the state also offer study abroad programs that are extremely beneficial in two ways:

  1. When American students study in other nations they learn more than what is in their syllabi, they learn the culture, something that cannot be taught in a classroom.
  2. International education is a vital service industry, bringing more than $20 billion into our country in 2009-10. According to Open Doors, 260,327 U.S. students studied abroad in 2008-09, and 690,923 international students from more than 200 countries studied in the U.S. in 2009-10.

But we are not stopping there.

Before full implementation of the Common Core State Standards, Florida is gathering information about how our students compare internationally in reading, mathematics and science. We are participating in Trends in the International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).  Adjustments to Florida standards will be made based on the results of these studies.

Do your children participate in dual language or study abroad programs? What has their experience been?

Serving those who served us

Guest post by Joyce Hildreth, DOE Division of Blind Services Director

There are so many ways United States military veterans have given their time, energy and resources for the country and our freedoms. The Florida Department of Education Division of Blind Services (DBS) is honored to be able to offer assistance to these veterans through a variety of our programs. 

Here are a few of their stories: 

Ernest Creech is a visually impaired Army veteran who has received Independent Living assistance, including mobility training, and a specially outfitted computer from DBS. He currently is an undergraduate at Atlantic Technical Institute in Ft. Lauderdale, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree as a Biomedical Maintenance Tech. Upon graduation, he hopes to find employment in a hospital setting. Currently, he is doing very well academically.


Video about DBS Independent Living services

Llars Copeland, also a visually impaired Army veteran, was injured in the line of service. The Department of Management Services has provided him with a computer and adaptive equipment. In addition, he has participated in the Independent Living Assistance program and Employer Services program. A law enforcement dog trainer for more than 20 years, he has returned to college and is majoring in family counseling, as he wishes to assist troubled youth and their families. He is active in his community and teaches music, keyboard and guitar to children in lower-income neighborhoods.

Video about DBS Vocational Rehabilitation services, including employment

Daniel Archer, a visually impaired Air Force veteran, participates in the DBS Business Enterprise Services program. The program recently helped him set up his own business servicing vending machines by providing a computer for his inventory operations, training on best management practices and guidance on how to repair machines. His company, Daniel Archer Enterprises, was licensed at the end of August and is thriving.

Video about DBS Business Enterprise Program

These veterans are lively, highly contributing members of their communities.

For more information about what DBS offers, visit You’ll find details about everything from a talking book library to transition services.

Are you or someone you know a current or previous client of DBS’s resources? If so, how was your experience? If you or someone you know is visually impaired and have not accessed our services, do you think we could provide you with any help?


Commissioner talks teacher evaluations, charter schools and more with Orlando Sentinel

Commissioner Robinson sat down with members of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board to discuss education issues, including teacher evaluations, charter schools and a variety of other topics. Check out the video for footage of the meeting.

Making it easy for military families

Guest post by Michael Kooi, executive director of Florida’s Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice

Florida is one of the states that adopted the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children (MIC3), which helps children of active-duty members with eligibility, enrollment, placement and graduation requirements.

With Florida’s numerous education options, we are happy to be able to provide many educational choices to meet military families’ needs – all covered under the Compact.

For example, say an active duty family relocates to another base and their two teenage children were taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes at their local public high school. In their new location, the students will have preference enrolling in the same AP classes at their new school, pending availability.

Because the Compact is nationwide, it accommodates active military families moving from Texas to Florida just the same as it applies to a family moving from Tampa to Jacksonville.

Have questions about this option? On November 16, families will have a chance to talk to state and district school choice experts in a one-on-one setting at the Florida School Choice Expo “Carousel of Choice.” If you can’t make the event, you can also find more information at

Have you ever taken advantage of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children? If so, what school option did you choose? Share with us your transition experience.

Holly Idler: The Coach, The Cheerleader and Part of Their Team

Note from Florida Blind Services Director Joyce Hildreth: Holly Idler from the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired recently received the Dean W. Tuttle Professional Education Award from The Hadley School for the Blind , which is considered to be the Heisman Trophy of furthering education for persons with visual disabilities, especially with John W. Heisman being visually impaired himself. We are very proud of her, and I asked her to share how her knowledge has affected her client instruction:

Holly Idler receives Dean W. Tuttle Professional Education Award

As a teacher at the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, I teach Orientation and Mobility to our adult clients. Here at the Center, the clients are taught assistive technology, home management, personal management, Braille and mobility. Being visually impaired myself, I want to assist my clients by giving them tools to make their day-to-day activities and responsibilities easier to manage in a more effective manner.

Here are just a few ways Hadley has influenced my teaching style: 

  • In use for thousands of years, the abacus is an efficient, accurate tool for doing math, by people with or without vision. I’ve taken a few classes using this device, and enjoy reviewing new techniques and competing with clients, during breaks, to see who can solve a math problem first. I am getting better, with practice.
  • Guide dogs are just one of the many mobility aids our clients can choose to utilize to get from point “A” to point “B” in a safe, effective and graceful manner. Many of my students are new cane users, and are interested in learning about guide dogs and possibly applying for one in the future. One of the key points of the class, Guide Dogs,  that stood out to me was how much the owner’s daily routine would change once they got a dog – they have to allow time to feed, walk and groom the dog each morning, prior to going to work or college.
  • I teach orientation and mobility classes and have to be careful with my students who have diabetes. Mobility activities can cause their blood sugar to drop during a lesson. In the Diabetes: Toward Self-Management course, I learned that having the client drink water BEFORE the lesson can help the body regulate the sugar levels. It is still important to drink water during and after a lesson.
  • Joyce Hildreth, the Florida DOE Division of Blind Services Director, once said persons with visual impairments need to look at self-employment as a viable option. I took two employment classes, Finding Employment and Self-Employment with a Minimal Investment. These classes provided some insight on what type of person would be cut out for self employment and what he or she would need to accomplish when creating their business plan. I feel I now have the knowledge to encourage my students to go in whatever direction they want to go in, including starting their own business – and at least one has!
  • One of the classes that I enjoyed the most was Using Raised Markers.  This class discussed many different options of marking and labeling household items such as the microwave and stove, personal items: such as shampoo and conditioner, ways to identify canned foods and medications, independently without having to know Braille.

I take Hadley classes myself, for my own education. If I can learn one new piece of information to share with my clients/students, my family or my coworkers, then the time the class took was worthwhile. I am not just their teacher. I am their coach, cheerleader and a part of their team.