Gaetz: Panhandle ‘pathway of growth’

Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 11:04 AM.

Northwest Florida, however, is poised to be a center of industrial growth, given the opportunity.

“If you are looking to relocate your company, or your family, Northwest Florida has a lot to offer,” the senator said.  “Taxes are lower here than in other parts of the state, as are living expenses.”

Area schools are good, and getting better, Gaetz said, and the recently enacted Career And Professional Education (CAPE) Act was designed to give Florida high school graduates a “diploma that has career currency in the workplace.”

Half of college and university graduates under 25 are unemployed or underemployed, Gaetz said. And having a high school diploma alone did not mean a student was qualified to get a job.

“This started when I was superintendent of the Okaloosa Schools, where we began the CHOICE Institutes,” Gaetz said. Since then, he has worked to “lash our education system to the realities and opportunities of the economy.”

Degree programs and high school studies need to prepare students for the real economy, and the CAPE Act will pay school districts $750 per middle school or high school student who receives an industrial certification while they are attending school.

“If Washington County School District does the same thing next year that they did this year, then under the CAPE Act the district would receive an additional $300,000,” Gaetz said.

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