DeSantis
FLA News photo

Gov. Ron DeSantis, citing a need to have a nimble workforce that meets market demands, unveiled the first part of his proposed education spending plan on Wednesday, with it geared toward expanding vocational and technical training in the state.

“We have too many folks who are not prepared for either college or workforce success, and that hinders their opportunities — it dims their horizons,” DeSantis said during a news conference at Tampa Bay Technical High School.

To address that concern, DeSantis signed an executive order that directs the state Department of Education to do an internal audit on its career- and technical-education programs and to coordinate with the state Department of Economic Opportunity and business interests to ensure students are trained to meet market demands.

“I think looking at the (economic) needs of the state and then crafting our educational opportunities to reflect that and to fulfill that makes sense,” DeSantis said.

To ensure the state’s workforce is “nimble and responsive,” DeSantis has asked Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to help him secure $36 million from the Legislature for workforce programs — $10 million to seed “high-quality workforce apprenticeships” and industry-specific opportunities and $26 million for workforce programs housed within the state college system. Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, in November finished his term as House speaker.

In addition to his executive order, the governor also wants to put a greater emphasis on computer science classes. He is asking lawmakers to consider a proposal that would put in state law that computer science classes can count as a science requirement toward high school graduation.

“The problem is there are not enough teachers who are qualified to teach this right now, so we are going to put more money behind training teachers in computer science,” DeSantis said Wednesday at an earlier press event in Tallahassee.

With that in mind, DeSantis said he is asking the Legislature, which begins its annual session March 5, to put $10 million into programs that will allow teachers to get certificates in computer science.

The goal, DeSantis said, is to put Florida on the map as the top place for vocational training in the country by 2030. Right now, the state is ranked No. 24.

Efforts to expand vocational and technical training in the state are in line with DeSantis’ campaign promises. Next week, he said he will unveil other proposals that would provide incentives for teachers who want to work in underserved areas.

“If they are willing to go into these underserved, areas, then that is something that will be a good investment,” he said. But when it comes to their pay, the governor said the state can provide money, but ultimately, it is up to school districts to determine what appropriate salaries should be.