Florida House bill proposes school choice for all

The Florida legislature introduced the state’s largest school choice bill yet, its primary sponsor says.

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner’s bill would give every parent access to an Education Savings Account to spend on a variety of education choices, including public schools, charter schools, private schools, home schooling and tutoring.

“HB 1, filed today by Chair @KayleeTuck2 [Rep. Kaylee Tuck], marks the largest expansion of school choice in the history of our state. Once again, Florida leads the way in empowering parents by giving them the ability to make informed decisions about their child’s education,” Renner tweeted Thursday.

Currently, Florida has income restrictions on state funded “choice scholarships” which prioritize families of four at or below 375% of the federal poverty level.

Last year Arizona passed a universal school choice bill which became a model for other states looking to provide more choices to parents.

“Former Arizona Governor Doug Ducey showed Republicans the way last year when he signed into law the biggest school choice victory in U.S. history. Now it appears red states like Florida are competing with one another by seeking to expand parental rights in education,” American Federation for Children’s Corey DeAngelis told Fox News.

If the bill passes, a family of four with an income of more than $104,063 per year would be eligible for scholarships worth $7,250 to $7,850 per student. Scholarship will still be prioritized for those eligible under the current law (households making less than 185% of the federal poverty level, or $51,338 per year for a family of four), local media reports.  

The proposed new thresholds would allow the state to clear a backlog of over 9,000 special needs students who are waitlisted under the current requirements.

“These proposals, including universal education savings accounts, represent commonsense reforms that will help parents and students obtain more freedom and educational choice,” said Skylar Zander, Americans for Prosperity Florida state director, according to FloridaPolitics.com.

“While Florida has long led the nation on the path toward educational freedom, other states have recently taken aim at one-upping us,” Zander added.

The report notes the bill doesn’t yet have a GOP sponsor in the state Senate, nor has Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis spoken in favor of the bill, but support from the Senate and the Governor is expected.

Renner told the House he hopes the bill passes in time for the new school year next fall after the regular session of the legislature starts meeting in March.