Florida just passed the largest expansion of school choice in K12 history

Florida follows Iowa, Utah and Arkansas in passing new legislation this year that makes all students eligible for education savings accounts.

Florida school choice programs are now open to all students after Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed legislation that eliminates financial eligibility restrictions and the state’s enrollment cap. DeSantis called it “the largest expansion of education choice not only in the history of this state but in the history of these United States.”

“Florida is No. 1 when it comes to education freedom and education choice,” DeSantis said at a press conference streamed across social media. “These programs have been instrumental in elevating student achievement over the past 20 years.”

The legislation, officially known as Florida HB 1, allows any Florida student to choose the school that they will attend as long as they are eligible to enroll in K12. Priority for Florida school choice scholarships will continue to be given to students with household incomes at or below 185% of the federal poverty level. It also gives secondary preference to students from households at 185% and 400% of the poverty level. Finally, on the financial side, HB 1 increases funding for school choice scholarships for students with disabilities.

The bill eliminates the current cap on the number of students who can participate in school choice. A maximum of 20,000 students who are not enrolled full-time in public or private school or who are not home-schooled can participate in choice in the 2023-2024 school year. Florida’s Office of K-12 School Choice will now develop an online portal that parents can use to research their educational options and alternatives.

Lastly, the bill waives a general education requirement for teachers who have spent three years in the classroom and have been rated “effective” or “highly effective” for three consecutive years.

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Florida now has the highest number of students attending “non-public school options,” Robert Enlow, president and CEO of EdChoice, said Monday. “Florida lawmakers show that even states with existing school choice programs in operation shouldn’t rest until those opportunities are available for all,” Enlow added in a statement. “More than ever before, parents are demanding the ability to customize where and how their children learn, and lawmakers are listening.”

Florida follows Iowa, Utah, and Arkansas in passing new legislation this year that makes all students eligible for education savings accounts.

In his press conference, DeSantis touted Florida’s No. 1 rankings for parental power in K12 (from the Center for the Education Reform) education freedom (by the Heritage Foundation), state spending on private school choice, and education savings account and other voucher enrollments.

Florida’s low- and middle-income students receive about one-third of the school choice scholarships in the entire country, he added.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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