Students and families will have more school choice options through an expansion of the program signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis signed the new law during a news conference at a Catholic school in Hialeah, on May 10.
The new law is summarized on Senate President Wilton Simpson’s web page.
Provisions of the new law, according to that summary, include:
- An expansion of school choice to allow a family of four earning less than $100,000 to receive full funding of K-12 education costs at a school of their choice.
- Increased eligibility, including to students who were not enrolled in a public school the previous year, as well as students of parents serving in the military, and students who are in foster care or adopted.
- The Family Empowerment Scholarship program will serve both low-income students and students with unique abilities. Each category has its own eligibility standards, enrollment caps, priority funding lists, scholarship amounts, and authorized spending uses.
- The scholarship award also has been increased to 100% of the funding the student is assigned through the state’s funding formula; previously, it was 95% of that amount.
- The McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities and the Gardiner Scholarship Program are now part of the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES).
- Initial eligible income limits have increased from 300% of the federal poverty level to 375%.
DeSantis extolled the value of the new legislation in a news release on his website.
“This legislation creates historical levels of flexibility in both schooling and educational services for millions of low-income families and families of students with unique abilities.
“As we have seen for more than 20 years now, these scholarship programs have elevated so many children and families. I am thankful to Sen. Manny Diaz, and Reps. Randy Fine and Jason Fischer for sponsoring this inclusive legislation to ensure that all of Florida’s students have the best chance for success,” DeSantis said.
Others weighed in, in that same release.
Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said: “By giving parents increased options to choose the education that best meets their child’s needs, we are giving those students unlimited opportunity.
“This legislation takes our scholarship programs to the next level,” he said.
Senate President Simpson put it this way: “School choice is here to stay. The Florida Legislature and our governor are honored to stand alongside more than 100,000 Florida parents who utilize our school choice programs.
“This comprehensive school choice legislation streamlines options and removes barriers that exist under some of our current programs so that more children can attend the schools their parents think are best,” Simpson said.
Speaker of the Florida House Chris Sprowls said the legislation represents “the largest expansion of school choice in the nation.”
Sprowls added: “It affirms our belief that parents and families, and not government bureaucracies, make the best educational choices for their children.”
Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., said: “Today’s bill signing solidifies our commitment to expanding eligibility and maximizing parental choice programs for our residents.”
Rep. Randy Fine added: “A great education is the passport to the American Dream, and in Florida, we have decided that the zip code you live in and the income of your parents should not determine your future.”
The new law takes effect July 1.
Published May 19, 2021