Florida Establishes Another School Choice Program

Published July 9, 2019

Florida has gained its fifth school choice program, which will grant up to 18,000 new state scholarships allowing students to attend a school of their family’s choice.

Family Empowerment Scholarships are designed to ease the 14,000-student waiting list for other programs funded by tax credits for donations to scholarship funds. FEPs will be funded directly from the state budget, at an estimated cost of $130 million, with the scholarship amount per child set at 95 percent of the cost for a public-school education.

Funding for the school a scholarship student student leaves is not reduced, raising per-pupil funding of the government school. The program begins in the 2019-20 school year. Approximately 100,000 students participate in the Sunshine State’s choice programs.

The new scholarships will help children from families with incomes of up to $77,000 for a family of four to send their children to a school of their choice.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on May 9.

National Leader in Reform

Florida is at the forefront of educational choice and continues to blaze a trail for other states to follow, says Jason Bedrick, director of policy for EdChoice and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.

“Florida already has one of the first education savings account programs and the nation’s largest tax-credit scholarship program with nearly 100,000 participating students from low-income families,” Bedrick said. “However, demand for educational options has outstripped the availability of scholarships, leading to a waitlist of about 14,000 students.”

The newest voucher program will help 18,000 kids from low- and middle-income families enroll in the school of their family’s choice, says Bedrick.

“This is another big step toward the goal of providing every child with access to a learning environment that works for them,” Bedrick said.

Next Step: Go Universal

Florida is setting and fulfilling big goals in education, says Timothy Benson, a policy analyst for The Heartland Institute.

“By enacting programs like the Family Empowerment Scholarship, the Sunshine State is continuing to show why it is in the forefront of the movement for parental choice in education in the United States,” Benson said.

“The next step, and a logical one, for state legislators to take would be turning one of its choice programs, preferably the Gardiner Scholarship education savings account, into a universal program open to every single Florida student,” Benson said.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.

Internet Info

Tim Benson, “Research & Commentary: Family Empowerment Scholarships Would Be Another Welcome Florida School Choice Program,” The Heartland Institute, March 8, 2019: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/research–commentary-family-empowerment-scholarships-would-be-another-welcome-florida-school-choice-program