EDUCATION

Key HUF 2021 Legislative Priority

Native Language Assessment

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced that would require Florida’s Department of Education to adopt various assessments in the most predominant languages spoken by English Learners (EL) at home. Additionally, the bill would require statewide standardized assessments used in K-12 and high school equivalency exams to be offered in the students’ home languages.

Recommendations:
  • Support funding for online learning support for EL’s and educate where the need is:
    • Digital Divide: Devices, connectivity, and digital programs.
    • Trainings for EL teachers, who have reported fewer hours of professional development with digital learning resources than mainstream teachers.

Prioritize early childhood education.

Florida’s School Readiness program provides subsidies for childcare for low-income families; however, only 15 percent of eligible families in the state currently receive subsidies. Additionally, the COVID-19 crisis threatens the viability of Florida’s childcare operations.

Recommendations:
  • Advocate against any budget cuts to early childhood education programs in this legislative session.
  • Support boosting funding for both School Readiness and the Voluntary Pre-K program in order to better serve more families and buoy childcare operators through the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Support and advise the state and local governments to make sure that these funds are allocated where they are needed most.

PreK-3rd Grade Coordinated Assessment System

  • Develop comprehensive childcare provider profiles to assist families in understanding quality metrics and aid parent choice.
  • Recognize learning gains in the calculation of a Voluntary Prekindergarten Education (VPK) Provider’s Readiness Rate through the use of a developmentally appropriate VPK assessment administered during the VPK program year.
  • Incorporate observational assessments into VPK classrooms that focus on teacher-child interactions to help determine teacher effectiveness; and
  • Implement a progress monitoring system to be delivered within the first 30 days of school for children in grades kindergarten through 2nd grade.
  • Support intervention strategies for children who based on VPK assessment results would benefit from increased supports that result in kindergarten readiness.
  • Align increased investments in Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program for four-year-olds to state defined quality benchmarks to improve kindergarten readiness and later school success.

School Mental Health Counseling

The pandemic is exacerbating the gap in Florida’s mental health resources. Suicide-related calls have increased among Florida’s youth and more Floridians are reporting anxiety or depression.

Recommendation:

Support mental health initiatives for ELs, and all students, to mitigate the risks of stress
on their social-emotional well-being.

State financial aid for college students who are undocumented.

Support opening eligibility to both merit- and need-based financial aid to all undocumented students who are currently eligible for in-state tuition, including DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients.