The success of Florida’s education gains cannot be denied. Our state ranks second in the world and first in the nation in fourth grade reading scores, achievement gaps are closing and graduation rates at an all-time high. But according to the Florida Chamber Foundation, our state will need to fill 2 million more jobs by 2030.
The solution? Fewer but better tests, creating quality schools, expanding opportunities and measuring outcomes. Being a globally competitive economy begins with a commitment to rigorous standards and accountability initiatives. Representative Manny Diaz, Chair of the House Education Subcommittee on Choice and Innovation, discusses the importance for school choice, opportunities, accountability standards and charter schools to Florida’s growing economy.
“There can be no retreat from accountability,” said Representative Manny Diaz, Chair of the House Education Subcommittee on Choice and Innovation. “Having said that, there are instances where there may have been too many tests. We want to continue to measure, we don’t want to back away from accountability, but we want to make sure that when we do measure, its important and it give us a clear picture of where our students are. We need to be responsible for our education system- we are- and we want to have tests that are quality tests and really tell parents and teachers where those students are and what we need to do next to improve their lives.”
A quality educational system is Florida’s new economic development tool, which is why the Florida Chamber supports school choice options like personal leaning account, tax credit scholarships and charter schools. And with new House proposals regarding charter schools, specifically a new Charter School Innovation Institute at Florida State University, Florida is on the right track to continued success.
“We’ve vetted many national models,” explained Rep. Manny Diaz. “We feel that if Florida is going to continue to be a leader- we have to step up. Now it’s our turn to come back and have a real research center to tell us what are the quality practices, what does a quality charter school look like, and providing that option for parents. It’s only one tool in the toolbox, but we need to make sure it’s a quality tool.”
And while the Florida Chamber believes educational reforms are moving Florida in the right direction, we will continue to advocate against special interest groups that put the agendas of adults before the needs of Florida’s students.
“We should never box somebody’s opportunity in with an arbitrary boundary like a zip code, or what street they live on,” said Rep. Manny Diaz. “All parents, no matter what their economic status, should have the opportunity of choice. Parents know best when it comes to the educational opportunities of their children. Our tax credit scholarships have been under fire because of a lawsuit. We are continuing to fight on, to make sure that we don’t allow the adults to infringe on the opportunity for 70,000 low income kids that are the most vulnerable in our state. In a state of 19 million people, you would think that adults wouldn’t be bullying 70,000 low income kids. But it’s happening and we are fighting on to make sure that they keep that opportunity.”