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Shoaf bill would help bridge digital divide

Special to the Star

State Representative Jason Shoaf filed legislation this week to ensure that Florida students have the tools they need to learn and that Florida schools are prepared and capable of providing quality education to students across Florida.

“During COVID-19, we learned the hard way that our schools were not as digitally advanced as they should be,” said Shoaf. “Almost overnight, we were forced to transition our students from classroom learning to digital learning platforms. This transition proved to be challenging in districts across the state and highlighted the critical need for digital preparedness in our schools.

Jason Shoaf

“HB 985 takes the steps necessary to ensure Florida students have access to high-quality digital learning resources,” he said, in a news release.

Entitled Digital Learning for Low Income Students, the bill would require school districts to provide plans to ensure Florida’s students have the necessary devices and curriculum for learning. The proposed bill also expands access to high speed, broadband internet connectivity; and increases training for teachers, parents and students.

“One of the pandemic’s most vivid lessons is that digital access must be foundational to how we deliver education,” said Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future. “HB 985 can help bridge the digital divide by providing underserved students with digital resources, ensuring access to high-quality online curriculum and providing support for students, teachers and families.”

“Given modern day technology, it is time to ensure our students develop relevant and applicable digital skills,” said Shoaf. “We are doing our students an injustice by not preparing them to enter a world that operates on a virtual platform. HB 985 would expand the tools and resources needed to provide all students with the opportunity to learn and succeed in school and beyond.”

Next, HB 985 will be referenced to committees for review and evaluation. To read the full text of HB 985, visit www.myfloridahouse.gov and search bills.

Jason Shoaf, state representative for Florida House District 7, was first elected during a special election to fill a vacancy in 2019, and was subsequently reelected in 2020. House District 7 encompasses Gulf, Franklin, Liberty, Calhoun, Jefferson, Lafayette, Madison, Taylor and Wakulla counties and part of Leon County