TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott is signing into law a sweeping education bill that rolls back graduation standards adopted just three years ago. But the law also represents a step forward into uncharted digital terrain, and a renewed effort to link education to careers.
Scott on Monday gave his approval to the comprehensive bill which would also let the University of Florida take the lead in online education in the state. The state's most prestigious university would gain the right to offer bachelor degrees completely online.
Scott predicted the measure would transform education.
Three years ago legislators raised the state's graduation requirements, adding tougher courses in math such as Algebra II and science courses such as chemistry and physics.
But the new bill would remove those requirements and instead students would be allowed to take career education courses.
Key points in the legislation:
• Enable state universities to qualify as "pre-eminent research universities" and receive additional money for online initiatives and high-tech degree programs.
The University of Florida and Florida State University already meet the requirements, and will see extra money coming their way.
The University of Florida will use its $15 million to hire new faculty, President Bernie Machen said. The school will receive another $15 million to develop more online degrees and market them throughout the state.
"With this legislation, the University of Florida will take a step forward and become one of the pre-eminent universities in the country," Machen said.
• Allow some funding for state universities to be based on performance, rather than just enrollment.
• Allow state colleges to create a degree program that costs no more than $10,000.
• Provide financial incentives for schoolteachers whose students earn industry certification or post high scores on college-level exams.
• Require high school students statewide to take a course in financial literacy.
New high school graduation requirements:
• To earn a standard diploma, students must take 24 credit hours and pass standardized exams in language arts and algebra I.
• For a scholar designation, students must complete the requirements for a standard diploma, plus complete at least one college-level course, earn two credits in a foreign language, and pass end-of-course exams in algebra II, biology and history.
• For a merit designation, students must complete the requirements for a standard diploma plus earn industry certification in one or more fields. Students seeking a merit designation can substitute some industry courses for advanced science and math courses.