Senate committee advances legislation to refine scholarship administration

by | Jan 30, 2024

The Florida Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee advanced legislation on Tuesday to refine the administrative processes of the state’s educational scholarship programs.

The Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill focused on administrative reforms to the state’s educational scholarship programs.

The legislation, SPB 7048, aims to streamline the application and management processes of Florida’s school voucher program, implemented last year following the landmark passage of House Bill 1.

Provisions include implementing specific deadlines for the application and renewal of scholarships under the Florida Tax Credit (FTC), Personalized Education Program (PEP), and Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) programs. According to committee members, the change is intended to make the process more efficient and transparent for families seeking educational funding.

“This legislature successfully passed one of the nation’s largest expansion of school choice last year, aimed at empowering parents to choose education that suits their student’s needs,” said Sen. Corey Simon. “Despite benefiting hundreds of thousands of students, this [legislation] addresses feedback we received from parents, private schools, and scholarship funding organizations regarding eligibility and transparency enhancements.”

The bill additionally requires Scholarship Funding Organizations (SFOs) to provide detailed quarterly reports, which will track the number of applications received, the time taken to process these applications, the number of reimbursements made, and the duration of the reimbursement process. It further mandates that SFOs seek feedback from various stakeholders, including parents, private schools, and service providers, before making significant changes to the reimbursement process.

A secondary stipulation would expand eligibility for scholarship programs for children of active-duty U.S. Armed Forces members and students with disabilities.

Policy watchdog groups raised concerns in the months following House Bill 1’s passage over the fairness and appropriateness of using taxpayer dollars for purchases such as big-screen TVs, theme park tickets, and physical education equipment like kayaks and trampolines.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that under the current guidelines, the program allows up to $2,000 for “at-home classroom furnishings” (including items like a 55-inch TV), $3,000 for physical education equipment (including kayaks and other items, with a cap of $1,000 per item), and $500 for field trips, which can include theme park admissions. Additionally, $2,000 can be spent on electives, expanding the scope of eligible expenses beyond traditional educational materials​.


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