In the fall of 1999, when I was a junior at the University of Florida, my professor, Julian Pleasants, inspired me to dedicate my life to public service. It wasn’t until several years later that I realized our education system was the primary issue I wanted to tackle when I jumped into the political arena.
In 2006, I was managing a small cable systems company in South Florida. The business was growing at an exceptional rate and I was tasked with filling the growing number of jobs at the company. I began recruiting from within the state of Florida, but I also looked for recruits from across our nation. Whenever I brought a prospect from out of state in for interviews, almost every one of them seemed to have an issue and it was our schools. I had a number of people tell me they would move to Florida, but only if we would pay private school tuition for their children. As someone who was born, raised and educated here, that was like a kick in the gut. I realized I had to do whatever I could to improve our school system. So when I decided to run for the Florida House of Representatives in 2016, I made it my mission to implement education reform.
House Bill 577, which addresses high school graduation requirements, is the result of the promise I made to voters. The bill allows high school students to earn credits toward graduation by completing pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs that are approved by the state Department of Education. There are thousands of students that don’t matriculate to college right out of high school, and this bill gives them another opportunity to be prepared for the workforce as soon as they finish high school.
I know that Florida’s education system is flawed and that this bill alone will not fix all the problems, but it is a start in the right direction. Fixing every issue can’t be done in one bill, one legislative session or perhaps even one term in the Florida Legislature, but it is my hope that this will jump-start the process and provide an opportunity that so many students otherwise would not have.
Gov. Rick Scott signed this alternative graduation legislation into law on April 6, and this legislation will have far-reaching positive impacts for everyone across our state.
DAVID SILVERS, WEST PALM BEACH