Last week, Manny Diaz Jr. and other representatives in the Florida Legislature passed a comprehensive K-12 education bill that focuses on helping Florida’s most vulnerable and at-risk students gain access to a quality education. On Sunday, March 25th, Gov. Rick Scott quickly signed House Bill 7055 into law.

Students with special needs, students who have been bullied and struggling readers are just a few of the types of young learners who will be helped by this legislation. The new law also has a direct impact on classroom success by giving high-performing principals greater autonomy and flexibility over their schools.

To help parents of children with special needs, HB 7055 opens a new funding source for Gardiner Scholarship in the 2019–20 school year and every year after that. In addition, the legislative budget includes a $25 million increase to the program, which would allow at least 2,300 students with special needs to receive scholarships.

Also, The Principal Autonomy Program, which is expanded in HB 7055, gives principals the authority and flexibility to immediately improve academic outcomes, because when a public school continues to under-perform in Florida, our state dedicates additional funding and resources to improve academic success. School districts are required to place a highly effective principal at the school to change the culture and right the ship.

In 2016, more than 47,000 of Florida’s public-school students reported being battered, bullied, harassed, assaulted, or attacked. Through the Hope Scholarship program, students have the option to choose another public school or attend a private school that meets their needs. Students like seventh-grader Hannah Waibel of Arcadia will also benefit from this legislation because it creates a first-in-the-nation K-12 scholarship program for students who have been subjected to bullying or harassment. While many aspects of the new law contain immediate improvements to our education system, one piece will improve the foundation for all learning success.

On the other hand, students from across Florida who struggle to read on grade level can now receive extra help from a certified source their parents choose. Through HB 7055, parents of struggling readers can use a reading scholarship account to reimburse them for expenses to get their child extra reading intervention, in addition to what they are already receiving at school. This is the nation’s first reading scholarship account program and empowers parents of students in grades 3 to 5 to help their children become lifelong readers.

Manny Diaz Jr. is proud to have championed this bill to unlock endless opportunities for the Florida students and families who need it most.