(1) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term: (a) “Administrator” means a state university registered with the department under s. 1002.395(15)(i) and designated to administer the initiative under paragraph (3)(a). (b) “Annual tax credit amount” means, for any state fiscal year, the sum of the amount of tax credits approved under paragraph (5)(b), including tax credits to be taken under s. 211.0252, s. 212.1833, s. 220.1876, s. 561.1212, or s. 624.51056, which are approved for taxpayers whose taxable years begin on or after January 1 of the calendar year preceding the start of the applicable state fiscal year.
(c) “Department” means the Department of Education.
(d) “Division” means the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
(e) “Eligible contribution” means a monetary contribution from a taxpayer, subject to the restrictions provided in this section, to the administrator.
(f) “Initiative” means the New Worlds Reading Initiative.
(g) “Micro-credential” means evidence-based professional development activities that are competency-based, personalized, and on-demand. Educators must demonstrate their competence via evidence submitted and reviewed by trained evaluators.
(2) NEW WORLDS READING INITIATIVE; PURPOSE.—The purpose of the New Worlds Reading Initiative established under the department is to instill a love of reading by providing high-quality, free books to students in kindergarten through grade 5 who are reading below grade level and to improve the literacy skills of students in kindergarten through grade 12. The New Worlds Reading Initiative shall consist of:
(a) The program established under this section to provide high-quality, free books to students.
(b) The New Worlds Reading Scholarship Program under s. 1002.411. (c) The New Worlds Scholar program under s. 1008.365, which rewards high school students who instill a love of reading and improve the literacy skills of students in kindergarten through grade 3.
(d) The micro-credential program established under this section which emphasizes strong core instruction and a tiered model of reading interventions for struggling readers.
(3) DEPARTMENT RESPONSIBILITIES.—The department shall: (a) Designate an administrator to implement the initiative and to receive funding as provided in this section. The administrator must have an academic innovation institution with extensive experience in:
1. Conducting academic research in early literacy instruction.
2. Implementing online delivery of early learning and literacy training for educators nationally.
3. Developing online support materials that assist parents and caregivers in developing early literacy skills.
4. Conducting fundraising and public awareness campaigns to support the development and growth of evidence-based educational initiatives that support learning at home and in schools.
(b) Publish information about the initiative and tax credits under subsection (5) on its website, including the process for a taxpayer to select the administrator as the recipient of funding through a tax credit.
(c) Beginning September 30, 2022, and annually thereafter, report on its website the number of students participating in the initiative in each school district, information from the annual financial report under paragraph (4)(i), and the academic achievement and learning gains, as applicable, of participating students based on data provided by school districts as permitted under s. 1002.22. The department shall establish a date by which the administrator and each school district must annually provide the data necessary to complete the report. 2(4) ADMINISTRATOR RESPONSIBILITIES.—The administrator shall: (a) Develop, in consultation with the Just Read, Florida! Office under s. 1001.215, a selection of high-quality books encompassing diverse subjects and genres for each grade level to be mailed to students in the initiative.
(b) Distribute books at no cost to students as provided in paragraph (6)(c) either directly or through an agreement with a book distribution company.
(c) Assist local implementation of the initiative by providing marketing materials to school districts and any partnering nonprofit organizations to assist with public awareness campaigns and other activities designed to increase family engagement and instill a love of reading in students.
(d) Maintain a clearinghouse for information on national, state, and local nonprofit organizations that support efforts to improve literacy and provide books to children.
(e) Develop, for parents of students in the initiative, resources and training materials that engage families in reading and support the reading achievement of their students. The administrator shall periodically send to parents hyperlinks to these resources and materials, including video modules, via text message and e-mail.
(f) Provide professional development and resources to teachers that correlate with the books provided through the initiative.
(g) Develop a micro-credential that requires teachers to demonstrate competency to:
1. Diagnose literacy difficulties and determine the appropriate range of literacy interventions based upon the age and literacy deficiency of the student;
2. Use evidence-based instructional and intervention practices, including strategies identified by the Just Read, Florida! Office pursuant to s. 1001.215(8); and
3. Effectively use progress monitoring and intervention materials.
(h) Administer the early literacy micro-credential program established under this section, which must include components on content, student learning, pedagogy, and professional development and must build on a strong foundation of scientifically researched and evidence-based reading instructional and intervention programs that incorporate explicit, systematic, and sequential approaches to teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and text comprehension and incorporate decodable or phonetic text instructional strategies, as identified by the Just Read, Florida! Office, pursuant to s. 1001.215(8). 1. At a minimum, the micro-credential curriculum must be designed specifically for instructional personnel in prekindergarten through grade 3 based upon the strategies and techniques identified in s. 1002.59 and address foundational literacy skills of students in grades 4 through 12.
2. The micro-credential must be competency based and designed for eligible instructional personnel to complete the credentialing process in no more than 60 hours, in an online format. The micro-credential may be delivered in an in-person format. Eligible instructional personnel may receive the micro-credential once competency is demonstrated even if it is prior to the completion of 60 hours.
3. The micro-credential must be available by December 31, 2022, at no cost, to instructional personnel as defined in s. 1012.01(2); prekindergarten instructors as specified in ss. 1002.55, 1002.61, and 1002.63; and child care personnel as defined in ss. 402.302(3) and 1002.88(1)(e).
(i) Annually submit to the department an annual financial report that includes, at a minimum, the amount of eligible contributions received by the administrator; the amount spent on each activity required by this subsection, including administrative expenses; and the number of students and households served under the initiative.
(j) Maintain separate accounts for operating funds and funds for the purchase and delivery of books.
(k) Expend eligible contributions received only for the purchase and delivery of books and to implement the requirements of this section, as well as for administrative expenses not to exceed 2 percent of total eligible contributions. Notwithstanding s. 1002.395(6)(j)2., the administrator may carry forward up to 25 percent of eligible contributions made before January 1 of each state fiscal year and 100 percent of eligible contributions made on or after January 1 of each state fiscal year to the following state fiscal year for purposes authorized by this subsection. Any eligible contributions in excess of the allowable carry forward not used to provide additional books throughout the year to eligible students shall revert to the state treasury.
(l) Upon receipt of a contribution, provide the taxpayer that made the contribution with a certificate of contribution. A certificate of contribution must include the taxpayer’s name and, if available, its federal employer identification number; the amount contributed; the date of contribution; and the name of the administrator.
(5) NEW WORLDS READING INITIATIVE TAX CREDITS; APPLICATIONS, TRANSFERS, AND LIMITATIONS.— 2(a) The tax credit cap amount is $10 million for the 2021-2022 state fiscal year, $30 million for the 2022-2023 state fiscal year, and $60 million in each state fiscal year thereafter. (b) Beginning October 1, 2021, a taxpayer may submit an application to the Department of Revenue for a tax credit or credits to be taken under one or more of s. 211.0252, s. 212.1833, s. 220.1876, s. 561.1212, or s. 624.51056. 1. The taxpayer shall specify in the application each tax for which the taxpayer requests a credit and the applicable taxable year for a credit under s. 220.1876 or s. 624.51056 or the applicable state fiscal year for a credit under s. 211.0252, s. 212.1833, or s. 561.1212. For purposes of s. 220.1876, a taxpayer may apply for a credit to be used for a prior taxable year before the date the taxpayer is required to file a return for that year pursuant to s. 220.222. For purposes of s. 624.51056, a taxpayer may apply for a credit to be used for a prior taxable year before the date the taxpayer is required to file a return for that prior taxable year pursuant to ss. 624.509 and 624.5092. The Department of Revenue shall approve tax credits on a first-come, first-served basis and must obtain the division’s approval before approving a tax credit under s. 561.1212.
2. Within 10 days after approving or denying an application, the Department of Revenue shall provide a copy of its approval or denial letter to the administrator.
(c) If a tax credit approved under paragraph (b) is not fully used within the specified state fiscal year for credits under s. 211.0252, s. 212.1833, or s. 561.1212 or against taxes due for the specified taxable year for credits under s. 220.1876 or s. 624.51056 because of insufficient tax liability on the part of the taxpayer, the unused amount must be carried forward for a period not to exceed 10 years. For purposes of s. 220.1876, a credit carried forward may be used in a subsequent year after applying the other credits and unused carryovers in the order provided in s. 220.02(8). (d) A taxpayer may not convey, transfer, or assign an approved tax credit or a carryforward tax credit to another entity unless all of the assets of the taxpayer are conveyed, assigned, or transferred in the same transaction. However, a tax credit under s. 211.0252, s. 212.1833, s. 220.1876, s. 561.1212, or s. 624.51056 may be conveyed, transferred, or assigned between members of an affiliated group of corporations if the type of tax credit under s. 211.0252, s. 212.1833, s. 220.1876, s. 561.1212, or s. 624.51056 remains the same. A taxpayer shall notify the Department of Revenue of its intent to convey, transfer, or assign a tax credit to another member within an affiliated group of corporations. The amount conveyed, transferred, or assigned is available to another member of the affiliated group of corporations upon approval by the Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue shall obtain the division’s approval before approving a conveyance, transfer, or assignment of a tax credit under s. 561.1212. (e) Within any state fiscal year, a taxpayer may rescind all or part of a tax credit approved under paragraph (b). The amount rescinded shall become available for that state fiscal year to another eligible taxpayer approved by the Department of Revenue if the taxpayer receives notice from the Department of Revenue that the rescindment has been accepted by the Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue must obtain the division’s approval before accepting the rescindment of a tax credit under s. 561.1212. Any amount rescinded under this paragraph must become available to an eligible taxpayer on a first-come, first-served basis based on tax credit applications received after the date the rescindment is accepted by the Department of Revenue. (f) Within 10 days after approving or denying the conveyance, transfer, or assignment of a tax credit under paragraph (d), or the rescindment of a tax credit under paragraph (e), the Department of Revenue shall provide a copy of its approval or denial letter to the administrator. The Department of Revenue shall also include the administrator on all letters or correspondence of acknowledgment for tax credits under s. 212.1833. (g) For purposes of calculating the underpayment of estimated corporate income taxes under s. 220.34 and tax installment payments for taxes on insurance premiums or assessments under s. 624.5092, the final amount due is the amount after credits earned under s. 220.1876 or s. 624.51056 for contributions to the administrator are deducted. 1. For purposes of determining if a penalty or interest under s. 220.34(2)(d)1. will be imposed for underpayment of estimated corporate income tax, a taxpayer may, after earning a credit under s. 220.1876, reduce any estimated payment in that taxable year by the amount of the credit. 2. For purposes of determining if a penalty under s. 624.5092 will be imposed, an insurer, after earning a credit under s. 624.51056 for a taxable year, may reduce any installment payment for such taxable year of 27 percent of the amount of the net tax due as reported on the return for the preceding year under s. 624.5092(2)(b) by the amount of the credit. (6) ELIGIBILITY; NOTIFICATION; SCHOOL DISTRICT OBLIGATIONS.— (a) A student in kindergarten through grade 5 must be provided books through the initiative if the student has a substantial reading deficiency identified under s. 1008.25(5)(a) or scored below a Level 3 on the preceding year’s statewide, standardized English Language Arts assessment under s. 1008.22.
(b) Each school district shall notify the parent of a student who meets the criteria under paragraph (a) that the student is eligible to receive books at no cost through the New Worlds Reading Initiative and provide the parent with the application form developed by the administrator, which must allow for the selection of specific book topics or genres for the student.
(c) Once an eligible student is identified, the school district shall coordinate with the administrator to initiate book delivery on a monthly basis during the school year, which must begin no later than October and continue through at least June. However, for the 2021-2022 school year only, delivery may begin no later than December 31, 2021, provided that no fewer than 9 books are delivered to each student before book deliveries begin for the 2022-2023 school year.
(d) Upon enrollment and at the beginning of each school year, students must be provided options for specific book topics or genres in order to maximize student interest in reading.
(e) A student’s eligibility for the initiative continues until promotion to grade 6 or until the student’s parent opts out of the initiative.
(f) Each school district shall participate in the initiative by partnering with local nonprofit organizations, raising awareness of the initiative using marketing materials developed by the administrator, coordinating book delivery, and identifying students and notifying parents pursuant to this subsection.
(g) Each school district shall coordinate with each charter school it sponsors for purposes of identifying eligible students, notifying parents, coordinating book delivery, providing the opportunity to annually select book topics and genres, and raising awareness of the initiative as provided by this section.
(h) School districts and partnering nonprofit organizations shall raise awareness of the initiative, including information on eligibility and video training modules under paragraph (4)(e), through, at least, the following: 1. The student handbook and the read-at-home plan under s. 1008.25(5)(c).
2. A parent or curriculum night or separate initiative awareness event at each elementary school.
3. Partnering with the county library to host awareness events, which should coincide with other initiatives such as library card drives, family library nights, summer access events, and other family engagement programming.
(7) ADMINISTRATION; RULES.—
(a) The Department of Revenue, the division, and the Department of Education may develop a cooperative agreement to assist in the administration of this section, as needed.
(b) The Department of Revenue may adopt rules necessary to administer this section and ss. 211.0252, 212.1833, 220.1876, 561.1212, and 624.51056, including rules establishing application forms, procedures governing the approval of tax credits and carryforward tax credits under subsection (5), and procedures to be followed by taxpayers when claiming approved tax credits on their returns. (c) The division may adopt rules necessary to administer its responsibilities under this section and s. 561.1212.
(d) The Department of Education may adopt rules necessary to administer this section.
(e) Notwithstanding any provision of s. 213.053 to the contrary, sharing information with the division related to this tax credit is considered the conduct of the Department of Revenue’s official duties as contemplated in s. 213.053(8)(c), and the Department of Revenue and the division are specifically authorized to share information as needed to administer this section. 2Note.—
A. Section 41, ch. 2022-97, provides that “[t]he Department of Revenue is authorized, and all conditions are deemed met, to adopt emergency rules under s. 120.54(4), Florida Statutes, for the purpose of implementing changes related to the Strong Families tax credit program and the New Worlds Reading Initiative tax credit program made by this act. Notwithstanding any other law, emergency rules adopted under this section are effective for 6 months after adoption and may be renewed during the pendency of procedures to adopt permanent rules addressing the subject of the emergency rules.”
B. Section 42, ch. 2022-97, provides that “[t]his section and sections 39, 40, and 41 of this act, and the sections amending ss. 220.1876, 220.1877, 624.51056, 624.51057, and 1003.485, Florida Statutes, shall take effect upon this act becoming a law and operate retroactively to July 1, 2021.”