DeSantis signs largest school choice expansion bill

by | May 11, 2021

Governor Ron DeSantis signed a school choice expansion bill on Tuesday, giving low-income children the avenue to be eligible for private school scholarships.

Holding a press conference at St. John the Apostle Catholic School in Hialeah, DeSantis signed a measure (HB 7045) that paves the way for the largest school choice expansion in Florida’s history. The legislation makes major changes to the Sunshine State’s school choice program, repealing the Gardiner and McKay Scholarship Programs for children with special needs, and transitioning those students into the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program.

Under the new law, children from low-income families will be able to obtain K-12 private school “vouchers” and use them for private school tuition, tutors, and mentoring services.

Flanked by Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Núñez, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and other legislators, the Governor touted the bill spearheaded by State Representative Randy Fine, saying it removes barriers and decreases waiting lists for the scholarship program.

“This year the legislature delivered another victory for school choice, and today with the signing of house bill 7045, we will be doubling down on our commitment to supporting our working families and making sure that they have the ability to get their kids in the school of their choices,” DeSantis said.

To be eligible for a Family Empowerment Scholarship, a family’s household income level must not exceed 375 percent of the federal poverty level or about $100,000 for a family of four.

Today’s signing drew praise from several groups, including Americans for Prosperity (AFP-FL). The political advocacy group, which advocates for lower taxes, less government regulation, and free market policies, says the new law provides greater flexibility for families seeking to meet their children’s educational needs.

“A child’s ability to achieve academic success should not be tied to his or her zip code, and we applaud Governor DeSantis for signing this landmark legislation that expands the state private school choice scholarship program and simplifies options for Florida families,” said AFP-FL Director Skylar Zander.” Each child has unique educational needs, and each family should have the freedom and flexibility to meet those needs. This legislation makes important and positive reforms to Florida’s education system, and we thank Governor DeSantis and the Legislature for putting Florida’s families in the driver’s seat when it comes to their children’s education.”

Despite DeSantis’ latest legislative victory, opponents have criticized the measure, saying it siphons taxpayers’ money away from public schools in favor of private schools.



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