TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida schools will help students plan for careers even if they don't want to seek a four-year college degree under a wide-ranging education bill sent to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday.
The bill is a priority for DeSantis, who called for the changes in his State of the State speech that opened the 60-day legislative session. The bill was unanimously passed by the House and Senate on the 59th day of the session.
"This is the most transformational thing we have done in education since Gov. (Jeb) Bush presided over us," said Republican Sen. Travis Hutson. "There are so many good things in this bill."
The bill will require schools to place a stronger emphasis on vocational and technical training and apprenticeships, beginning with required courses for middle school students on career and education training. The idea is to get students to begin thinking about their career options once they graduate from high school and how to achieve those goals. The state will track high-skilled, well-paying jobs that are in high demand and help train students who are interested in those careers.
It will also let students use vocational and technical education as a pathway to meeting high school graduation requirements.
"I went to a vo-tech high school and learned to weld," said Republican Rep. David Smith. "It became very important to me, maybe critical to me, when my very first week in college, my parents' tuition checked bounced. I had a skill to fall back on and I worked my way through college and graduated debt free because I had a trade."
The bill also requires that every high school teach a financial literacy class. It's a requirement that was long-sought by Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who died last year. Each chamber paid recognition to her before passing the bill.
Among other provisions, high school students would be able to take computer science courses to help meet math and science graduation requirements.
Floridians who dropped out of college just short of earning a degree would get help under the Last Mile College Completion Program. The state would pick up the cost of in-state tuition for students who return to school with 12 or fewer credits needed for their first degree.