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Florida Legislative Recap: Many Successes but Much Left to do in 2017

Lawmakers in Tallahassee have adjourned for the year having accomplished a great deal in expanding early childhood education, but there remains much to do in 2017.

Lawmakers in Florida have adjourned for 2016 and despite Gov. Rick Scott's noticeable exclusion of children and education in the January State of the State, policymakers have many items to celebrate as a success.

Lawmakers, Republicans, and Democrats alike, passed funding increases for School Readiness and Florida's early learning programs. Gov. Scott has also signed a budget that will increase Florida's "Help Me Grow" program, a state run early childhood resource for parents. The program is designed to link children and their families to community based development and behavioral services and support systems. "Help Me Grow" received an additional $2.5 million in funds for the next fiscal year.

But lawmakers also failed to move on important policies that would protect Florida students. Senate Bill 1146, Florida's version of the Common Sense Kids Action-led Student Data Privacy bill failed to pass out of the Senate. Florida schools are increasingly integrating computers, laptops, and tablets in the classroom and relying on cloud-computing services for a variety of academic and administrative functions. This technology, used wisely, has the vast potential to enhance and personalize student learning and to improve school efficiency. To realize this potential, we must ensure that students' personal information is protected. Efforts have already begun to bring meaningful student data privacy legislation to Florida in 2017.

We look forward to working with our network of parents and educators in Florida in 2017. Thank you for your advocacy and your continued support.

JR Starrett
JR oversees Let's Invest Large in Youth (LILY), a multi state program for Common Sense Kids Action. In this capacity JR works with a team of internal and external stakeholders to identify and introduce state based legislation that will positively impact kids. Prior to joining Common Sense, JR served as a seasoned political operative managing campaign efforts for some of the nation’s most competitive races. JR was recognized as a Rising Star by Campaigns and Elections magazine in 2014. He currently lives in San Francisco with his wife Morgan. JR is a frequent contributor to Campaigns and Elections Magazine, contributing to the Campaign Insider column.