Children’s Week is one of my favorite times of the year. I love when the Capitol comes alive with the sound of children excited to explore and learn about the work we are doing every day on their behalf. Every day is “Children’s Day” for me and the staff of the Florida Department of education; it’s the nature of what we do. And it is wonderful when everyone else is also focused on children, because children are Florida’s most important asset. On April 14, more than 3,000 of our state’s future leaders gathered in the Capitol Courtyard for Children’s Capitol for a Day.
I had the opportunity to spend time with Florida’s young citizens and remind them that Florida’s future is in each of their little hands. I also read one of my favorite Dr. Seuss’ books, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” to children from northwest Florida. I love when a book can inspire young minds to keep moving forward and to dream in color. It is our jobs as educators, parents and policymakers to work collectively to provide our students with the knowledge, skills and motivation needed to achieve their dreams and be successful now and in the future.
It is really a great time to be a student in Florida. Education leaders across the nation are watching Florida because we are getting things right. Florida is ranked 7th in the nation for K-12 academic achievement. Florida’s graduation rates are at an 11-year high – increasing nearly 17 percentage points in that time. And in the past five years, Florida has increased enrollment in accelerated STEM courses by 46 percent, giving more students access to high level courses in science, technology, engineering and math.
Seeing so many children participate in Children’s Week reminded me why thousands of Florida educators dedicate their lives to ensure students have access to a world-class education. And Governor Rick Scott is doing his part – having proposed the highest levels of education funding in Florida history. I believe events such as this is the first step to helping make change. We want to keep changing and growing until we are recognized as the best in education in the entire nation.