Florida will incentivize music classes in schools after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law SB 478, a bill sponsored by local Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville.
The bill converts a pilot program into a permanent one and provides $150 per student for music education programs from kindergarten through second grade. Legislators leaned on a UF study that shows music classes can increase learning and hope the classes will boost achievement in other disciplines.
“Music education has been shown to help children with language development, brain development and fine motor skills,” DeSantis said in a press release. “Florida has nation-leading early childhood and early literacy programs, and this bill will further help schools build a strong learning foundation for our youngest students.”
In a Tuesday phone interview, Perry said elementary students who fall behind will never catch up, so measures to help them engage and thrive early are critical.
“We have to look at long-term solutions to problems for our kids,” he said. “Music is not the silver bullet, but it’s certainly one of them.”
To receive the funds, schools must include all students in the classes, use certified music teachers, and provide teaching for at least 30 minutes twice a week. Schools opt into the program and are not required to provide the classes.
Perry began pushing for the music classes in past legislative sessions, sponsoring a UF study that found “moderate relations” between music classes and increased academic achievement.
UF’s Dr. Anne Seraphine, the principal investigator for the program, said the study looked at increases in learning behaviors like eagerness to participate, active effort and quick response to instructions—not just grades.
“What was valuable from our study was just being able to detect that there is a relationship between music and academic behaviors as we measured,” Seraphine said in a February phone interview. “And so, that gives at least partial evidence that music is a good thing to have in the schools, and I think this program is one such attempt.”
Perry said the research played a key role in convincing his colleagues to support the measure.
“Once they saw the data, I got a lot of buy-in,” Perry said.
Perry, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2010 as a member of the House, said he attempted a similar effort under former Gov. Rick Scott, who had “no interest” in helping fund it.
“Gov. DeSantis made this one of his priorities,” Perry said. "It was very gratifying to have the governor embrace this.”
—With reporting from J.C. Derrick