Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed groundbreaking reforms to Florida’s education system on Monday, expanding school choice to “every single student in the state.”
The legislation, House Bill 1, eliminates financial eligibility restrictions and the enrollment cap to Florida’s school choice scholarship program, the governor’s office explained in a news release.
“Florida is number one when it comes to education freedom and education choice, and today’s bill signing represents the largest expansion of education choice in the history of these United States,” DeSantis stated.
The number of scholarships for students with unique abilities has increased from 1% to 3%, with all scholarships prioritized to students with household incomes that do not exceed 185% of the federal poverty level.
Bureaucracy surrounding teacher eligibility has also been simplified and adjusted, with the general knowledge requirement waived for teachers with three years of experience.
In addition, the State Board of Education is tasked with recommending future proposals to reduce regulations on public schools.
“At the end of the day, we believe that the money should follow the student, and it should be directed based on what the parent thinks is the most appropriate education program for their child,” the governor said at Miami’s Christopher Columbus High School.
NBC’s WTVJ 6 noted that, for the first time, homeschooled students would be eligible to receive voucher funds if they agree to specific testing requirements.
Another feature is the “education savings accounts,” allowing recipients to spend funds on purchases beyond private-school tuition.
The Florida Education Association condemned the new universal voucher bill shortly after its signing, writing in a Twitter statement that it will “drain billions of taxpayer dollars away” from public schools.
“Average Floridians will be helping pay for millionaires and billionaires to send their kids to elite private schools that hand-select their students,” the teachers union claimed. “Once again, we see Gov. DeSantis putting his political ambitions ahead of Floridians, including students.”
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