The parents of all school children in Florida can choose between sending their kids to public or private schools under a measure signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this week.
During a March 27 bill signing event, DeSantis called the new law historic.
“This bill signing represents the largest expansion of education choice in the history of these United States,” he said. “When you combine private scholarships, charter schools, and district choice programs, Florida already has 1.3 million students attending a school of their choosing, (and) these programs have been instrumental in elevating student achievement over the past twenty years.”
Specifically, HB 1 does away with current restrictions in the Family Empowerment Scholarship program (FES) to allow all Florida students in grades K -12 to receive private school vouchers regardless of their family’s income, even if they are homeschooled. Students who are in foster or out-of-home care would get priority.
The measure also eliminates the existing enrollment cap and existing exemptions to the maximum number of students who can participate in the FES- Economic Opportunity (FES-EO) program.
Meanwhile, the new law continues to prioritize FES scholarship awards to students with household incomes that do not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty level and also makes it a priority to award scholarships to students whose household incomes are between 185 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
In order to address high demand and wait lists, HB1 boosts the annual scholarship adjustment for an FES for Students with Unique Abilities from one to three percent.
Finally, the measure also requires that the Office of K-12 School Choice create an online portal to help parents choose the best educational option for their children and eliminates the requirement that students complete at least one virtual course credit in order to graduate.
HB1 goes into effect on July 1.