Florida legislative session opening day: What they’re saying about education choice

Editor’s note: Today marks the first day of the two-month 2023 legislative session, although committees have been discussing bills since December. The state’s top legislative leaders, House Speaker Paul Renner, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, each cited education choice expansion as a priority during opening speeches to their chambers. Likewise, Gov. Ron DeSantis praised education choice and increased parental involvement as key to improving education during his annual State of the State address. Here are excerpts from their remarks.

House Speaker Paul Renner:

“As our youngest Floridians start school, they must learn to read so they can use reading to learn. Yet nearly half of our third graders cannot read on grade level. That is morally unacceptable! 

We must commit to a future in which every child masters the reading, math and general knowledge needed to reach their potential. To that end, we will improve resources for teachers and students, so that we can bring every child up to grade level.

And to further that success, we must embrace educational freedom and customized learning. House Bill 1 gives every parent and student customized tools to learn and thrive. It also ensures that students with unique abilities have the resources they need to live more independent lives when they reach adulthood.

Thanks to our bill sponsors, HB1 will deliver the largest expansion of school choice in the nation.”

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo:

“We will make school choice a reality for every child in every family across our great state. We must invest in the education of every Florida student, no matter where they choose to go to school.

We will cut red tape on traditional public schools.

These institutions – which have served our communities for generations – will have a meaningful opportunity to compete right alongside other school choice options.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis:

“We rank number one in the nation for education freedom.

We rank number one in the nation for parental involvement in education. We rank number 1 in fourth grade reading and math amongst all large states.

We’ve also provided robust support for K through 12 education. We have enacted record increases in teacher salaries. We’ve expanded school choice, and we have protected the rights of parents. Joining us here today is Tiqkia Barrow, a fifth-grade teacher from Renaissance Charter School in Wellington and a U.S. Army veteran.

She had to leave the teaching profession for a time being. Part of the reason she came back is because we were increasing salaries, and she’s brought her U.S. Army experience back into the classroom. So, thank you for what you do every day for our students. God bless.”  

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BY Lisa Buie

Lisa Buie is senior reporter for NextSteps. The daughter of a public school superintendent, she spent more than a dozen years as a reporter and bureau chief at the Tampa Bay Times before joining Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, where she served for nearly five years as marketing and communications manager. She lives with her husband and their teenage son, who has benefited from education choice.