Gov. Ron DeSantis is following through on his word to promote and expand school choice programs in Florida. DeSantis announced a plan Friday morning to provide funding to eliminate the waiting list for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, which which is designed to serve low-income children.
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program is by far the state’s biggest school choice program. There are more than 13,000 students on the program’s waiting list.
Under the plan released by DeSantis, an “equal opportunity scholarship” would supplement the state’s tax credit program. The number of the new scholarships would be capped at 14,000 in the first year. That would eliminate the waiting list for low-income students whose parents want to be able to choose the school they want their children to attend.
DeSantis called on state lawmakers to send him a bill that would establish and fund the new scholarship program.
“If the taxpayer is paying for education, it’s public education” regardless of where the student attends, DeSantis said.
Friday’s news follows last week’s announcement by DeSantis that he had found $19 million in the budget to fully fund the Gardiner Scholarship program, which provides financial support to thousands of children with certain disabilities allowing them to attend private school or be homeschooled.
DeSantis made no secret during the campaign and the first weeks of his new administration that he supports school choice and expanding the state’s voucher programs.
A report recently released by the Urban Institute and reported by the Tampa Bay Times indicates the tax credit program has benefited students who have taken advantage of the scholarships. Following up on a 2017 report, the Urban Institute reiterated that students who receive tax credit scholarships were more likely to attend public college in Florida than their counterparts who remained in public schools.
The updated report expanded the pool of participants in the study to include those students who went on to attend private and out-of-state institutions, as well. The updated report revealed the benefits to low income students was even greater when it came to the number of tax credit scholarship participants going on to college.
“We have parents who are lining up for a tax credit scholarship. They would not do that if the program was not succeeding.” DeSantis said.