When I was conducting research on the Volusia County (Florida) Plus One program for our study of three districts, I asked the then-Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Chris Colwell, why Volusia was the only district in Florida that had implemented a program to expand learning time for Title I schools. After all, the way that teachers and principals raved about having the additional hour each day, and the way that the program had enabled the nine schools to make real progress, you would think that other Florida districts would catch on. His response was that they expended all their energy into making the schools better, rather than promoting the program.
Still, I wondered: how can you keep good ideas in education like Plus One quiet? Well, apparently, now there are people in the Sunshine State who are listening. Word came last week that the Republican Majority Whip in the Florida Senate, David Simmons, plans to file a bill in the upcoming session to fund expanded time in struggling schools, specifically citing Volusia’s Plus One program as his inspiration.
It goes without saying that with the onset of tough fiscal times over the last three years, policymakers’ primary job has been to figure out where to cut programs from state and local budgets. So, it is especially noteworthy when a policymaker makes a stand about where to commit additional public dollars. We’ll continue to keep an eye on this effort in Florida and will check back with any new information about whether Senator Simmons can persuade his fellow legislators to agree that money spent on expanded time is “money well spent.”