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.