Florida literacy initiative garners $50 million

Florida’s New Worlds Reading Initiative hit $50 million in corporate donations after the Legislature offered dollar for dollar tax credits to companies that support the effort to boost reading levels in the state.

The Florida Legislature chose UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning to lead the funding efforts for the initiative that sends free books and learning resources to K-5 students who currently perform below grade level.

“Children and their success are at the heart of what we do,” Dr. Phil Poekert, director of the Lastinger Center, said in a press release. “We are proud and honored to administer the New Worlds Reading Initiative for the State of Florida.”

Spearheaded by House Speaker Chris Sprowls, the initiative started in 2021, and more than 500,000 Florida students qualify with more than 130,000 signed up for the program. The Legislature kicked off the initiative with $200 million in funds which Governor Ron DeSantis signed in July 2021—along with another $71 million toward literacy projects.

However, Florida decided to move funding away from the state and into private hands as the initiative continues, starting the corporate donation plan.

Due to the large corporate support, the Legislature passed an amendment to the initiative, raising the donation cap to $60 million starting in the 2023-24 fiscal year. The amendment awaits approval by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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