How Florida’s Vouchers Work

Published August 1, 1999

Florida’s vouchers are called “opportunity scholarships” and are part of an education improvement package that rewards successful schools and gives students the option of leaving a failing school. The plan works as follows:

School Grades: Schools will be given an A-F letter grade, based on annual student performance on the new Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, dropout rates, discipline, and other factors.

Rewards: Schools that get an A grade or show a performance improvement of at least two grades get an extra $100 per student and more flexibility over how their state education dollars are spent.

Help: As soon as a school receives a failing grade, state officials have the authority to provide financial aid and make changes to the school’s curriculum and personnel.

Vouchers: If a school receives a failing grade for any two years in a four-year period, students who are assigned to that school or who have spent at least a year there are eligible to receive vouchers, regardless of their income or grades.

Voucher Value: The value of a voucher will be the lesser of two amounts: the per-pupil amount spent at the student’s public school, or the tuition and fees charged at the private school. Vouchers will have an average value of $4,000 but could be much higher for students with special needs.

Voucher Schools: Vouchers may be redeemed at a) any public school with at least a C rating, based on available space, or b) sectarian or non-sectarian private schools that can demonstrate they are fiscally sound.

Voucher Recipient: Vouchers will be issued to parents in the form of a check that must be endorsed over to the chosen school.

No Added Fees: Schools that elect to participate in the voucher program must accept all eligible applicants on a random basis, and are not permitted to charge any additional fee over the voucher amount.

Religion: Religious schools that accept voucher students may teach religion classes but cannot compel any scholarship student to “profess a specific ideological belief, to pray, or to worship.”

“This first-in-the-nation statewide accountability measure will ensure that kids are no longer trapped in chronically failing schools,” said Governor Jeb Bush.