Almost a month after it was signed, HB 3, which dedicates $271 million in literacy initiatives throughout Florida, was celebrated on Thursday by Governor Ron DeSantis in Fort Pierce, Florida.

The bill created Florida’s first statewide book distribution program known as “New Worlds Reading Initiative” (NWRI). The initiative will provide and deliver free “high-quality” books to the home of elementary school students who are reading below grade level.

The NWRI accounts for $200 million, while the state of Florida allocates an additional $71 million to “fund and support other important literacy initiatives.” The NWRI will focus on book distribution, while the “other important initiatives” include:

  • $61 million to support literacy tutoring for kindergartners and first-graders,
  • $4 million to provide principals and assistant principals “effective practices” that focus on improving literacy,
  • $3 million for Literacy Coach Bootcamps,
  • $2.8 million to continue progress monitoring for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

“As a father of three young children, I want every child to have the opportunity to achieve their full potential,” said Governor DeSantis in Thursday’s press release. “The biggest difference we can make in setting Florida children up for success is making sure they know how to read. I’m proud to celebrate these investments in literacy today that ensure every student – regardless of their socio-economic status – has access to free, high-quality books. Thank you to Representative Trabulsy, Senator Burgess, Speaker Sprowls and President Simpson for prioritizing Florida’s children.”

Florida’s commissioner of education Richard Corcoran stated, “Literacy is foundational to learning and is probably the most pressing issue facing our students today.” He added, “Education is freedom – the great equalizer. Research shows that providing books to students both empowers parents to engage with their child’s reading activities and improves the student’s reading skills. I deeply appreciate Governor DeSantis’ and legislative leaders’ focus on reading and literacy, and putting our students on a path to a great life.”

HB 3 and the NWRI join a list of efforts by Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature to ensure the improvement of Florida’s education. The press release highlights HB’s 419 and 7011 that established literacy initiatives for prekindergarten students, as well as tutoring opportunities for high schoolers to teach elementary school students. In addition, the Florida Leads Budget allocates $765 million to help raise teacher salaries to $47,500 and provide $1,000 bonuses for teachers in recognition of their hard work during the 2020-2021 school year.

The release noted that the NWRI reflects the Florida Legislature’s dedication to “improve literacy and close achievement gaps as a part of Florida’s goal to be the #1 state for literacy in the nation.”

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Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected]