- House Speaker Paul Renner announced the filing of a bill to expand eligibility requirements for Florida’s school voucher program
- If adopted, the bill would grant any parent of a Florida public school student the ability to apply for the scholarship
- Under current law, the funding is exclusive to students from low-income households
- Renner stated that he anticipates bipartisan support for the legislation, as well as approval from Gov. Ron DeSantis
House Speaker Paul Renner on Thursday introduced a piece of legislation aiming to open the state’s school voucher program to any student eligible to enroll in public school.
The bill, filed by Rep. Kaylee Tuck, would broaden the eligibility criteria to receive vouchers as part of the Family Empowerment Scholarship, which is currently only available to students from low-income households.
According to the filing, parents could also use the scholarship funds to pay for a range of homeschooling expenditures, including the cost of private tutoring services or online courses.
Renner stated during the announcement that he anticipates bipartisan support for the bill, along with the support of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
According to state education data, more than 250,000 students statewide are taking advantage of the scholarship this academic year.
The school voucher program, also known as the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, was originally implemented to provide scholarships to low-income families to help pay for private school tuition.
The scholarships are funded by corporations that receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for their donations to the program and are administered by a number of non-profit organizations.
Supporters argue that it provides families with more educational options and can help improve student outcomes, while opponents claim that vouchers take money away from public schools and offers minimal oversight of the private schools that participate in the program.
“These proposals, including universal education savings accounts, represent commonsense reforms that will help parents and students obtain more freedom and educational choice,” said Skylar Zander, Florida state director for Americans for Prosperity. “This bill sends a clear signal to the rest of the nation that our state is committed to remaining the champion when it comes to education freedom – and the real winners will be Florida’s students and parents.”
Democratic members of the Florida Hosue were quick to offer statements of criticism towards the bill, including House Leader Fentrice Driskell.
“This is a continuation of Republican attacks on our public education system that helped create the American Dream by providing education to the poor and rich alike,” said Driskell. “Despite the Speaker’s claims of bettering teacher pay and increasing funding, Florida is still at the bottom when it comes to school funding and teacher pay. Florida ranks 48th in the nation when it comes to teacher salaries. That is abysmal. We should be focusing on fixing public education, not breaking it.”