Florida school districts will have to come up with a detailed strategy for using technology in their classrooms under a bill Gov. Rick Scott approved today alongside the state budget.
The governor approved the $77 billion spending plan that sets aside additional funding for “digital classrooms,” as well as legislation that could set the stage for increases in the coming years.
Requests for money to help school districts upgrade their technology infrastructure and train their teachers to use the devices has varied widely in recent years, from a request of more than $400 million last year to the $40 million the state Board of Education sought this year.
Key lawmakers, including Senate Education Chairman John Legg, R-Trinity, said one reason for the variation is state officials often don’t have reliable information on school districts’ digital learning needs.
For that reason, Legg sponsored a bill requiring districts to set specific digital learning goals tied to improving student achievement, and allowing them to receive dedicated funding tied to those goals. That legislation made its way into a larger education funding package Scott signed today. In a statement responding to Scott’s signing of HB 5101, Legg said the governor “understands the vital need for a continued focus in digital education in the classroom.”
The first round of district digital learning plans is due to the state Department of Education in October. Those plans will then be tied to funding in the budget. The amount is $40 million in the spending plan that takes effect July 1, but it could increase in future years once the plans are in place. The legislation sets an annual funding target of about $100 million.
Scott took a light touch with line-item vetoes, approving most of the education-related projects in the budget. However, he rejected $300,000 in funding that would have gone to help train teachers at single-gender schools in Duval and Broward counties.