Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed an expansive voucher law to provide public money for children to attend parochial, secular and other private schools across the state, despite previous skepticism about letting millionaire and billionaire families participate in Florida’s K-12 school voucher programs.
In the past, voucher, or “scholarship” programs have been used by low-income and middle-income families. But that won’t be the case under the new law that begins July 1, 2023. Soon, the wealthiest of families will be eligible for taxpayer dollars to give their kids a private education, including elite, pricey private schools.
Just recently, the governor has received several million-dollar contributions from his Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC, as he potentially tees up a presidential run for 2024, according to campaign finance documents.
Meanwhile, questions abound as DeSantis and other officials stood in an auditorium at Christopher Columbus High School, a Catholic private school for boys in Miami. (Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. told the crowd that his son graduated from that private high school.) However, there were several young children in uniforms at the event.
What happens if a child wants to go to a private school but is rejected? What if a private school has a tuition fee that is higher than the value of a voucher provided by the state?
The new voucher expansion will provide families with what are called “empowerment savings accounts.” The idea is to let families have a flexible fund that could be used for a variety of expenses, including private school tuition, tutors, online courses and learning materials, according to legislative analysis. The funds available will be equal to the public school district’s per-student funding. Current budget proposals suggest that could be about $8,500 dollars on average.
A scholarship funding organization such as Step Up for Students will be tasked to approve expenditures before funding goes out to the families using the state voucher funds and will be required to post “purchasing guidelines” for authorized use of voucher funds on its website.
Such organizations are also required to notify parents that participation in a scholarship program does not guarantee enrollment in a particular private school.
DeSantis previously expressed skepticism over the philosophy of including Florida’s wealthy families in the taxpayer-funded ‘scholarship’ programs, but that issue did not deter him from signing HB 1 into law Monday morning.
“It expands school choice to every single student in the state of Florida and it does that by eliminating the current financial eligibility restrictions and allowing any student who is a resident of Florida and is eligible to enroll in K-12 to participate in school choice scholarships,” DeSantis said at the bill signing Monday.
“Now, primarily there will be a preference for low and middle-income family, but at the end of the day, we fundamentally 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,” he added.
The voucher bill HB 1, which is now signed by the governor, also includes a variety of measures intending to “deregulate” public schools, including removing a graduation requirement that forced students to take one of their classes online and expands a temporary teaching certificate expiration from just three years to five years.
But as the bill went through the session, most of the criticisms of and support for the bill centered around the school voucher expansion.
A Phoenix analysis found that several districts had high percentages of private schools within their school district boundaries.
With the more eligibility from the new expanded voucher program, more families might attend some of those private schools.
For example, Miami-Dade had the highest percentage of private schools in its district in Florida. Following Miami-Dade, the analysis showed Seminole, Flagler, Osceola and Orange counties with high percentages of private schools in their districts.
Reactions to voucher expansion
Rep. Fentrice Driskell, the House Democratic Leader referred to the voucher expansion as “coupons” for millionaires, in a virtual press availability Monday.
“This could be devastating to Florida’s public schools,” Driskell said. “Which, always keep in mind that the Florida Constitution mandates that the Legislature have an adequately funded, well-funded, high-quality system for public schools, not these two systems that we have created with these corporate schools and the coupons that we’re giving to millionaires so that they can send their kids to these corporate schools.”
Rep. Angie Nixon, a Democrat who represents part of Duval County and an opponent of the school voucher expansion, said in a written statement following the bill signing:
“While our teachers need a raise and our students need supplies, this bill will take away those much-needed resources. HB 1 is not about choice, it’s about defunding our neighborhood public schools, taking that choice away from Florida’s families.”
Andrew Spar, president of the statewide teacher union called Florida Education Association, said in a written statement Monday that “average Floridians will be helping pay for millionaires and billionaires to send their kids to elite private schools that hand-select their students.”
“Once again, we see Gov. DeSantis putting his political ambitions ahead of Floridians, including our students,” he continued in the statement.
Meanwhile, Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is a vocal supporter for vouchers, is celebrating the bill signing. He said in a tweet Monday:
“Historic day in the #SunshineState! Thank you @GovRonDeSantis, @Paul_Renner, @Kathleen4SWFL for making Florida the #1 state for educational freedom. #HB1 gives families and students unprecedented choice, transforms education.”
Other organizations are in support of the school voucher expansion.
“With only 53 percent of Florida third graders reading at or above grade level, it is clear Florida families and students need support and flexibility, and this bill empowers them to have tailored educational experiences rather than the current one-size fits all approach,” The Florida Chamber of Commerce said in a written statement Monday. “The Florida Chamber has actively supported this legislation, as it supports our Florida 2030 Blueprint goal of ensuring every third grader in Florida can read at or above grade level by 2030.”
Some religious intuitions have voiced their support for the bill signing as well.
“Catholic schools look forward to working with the Florida Department of Education and scholarship funding organizations to implement the provisions of this historic law that will transform K-12 education in Florida,” said Michael Sheedy, executive director for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, according to a press release. “This marks the accomplishment of a long-standing goal of so many stakeholders to bring educational choice to every family in Florida.”
–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix, with Michael Moline
And what is going to be done about providing more security at all of the schools, any funding for that problem. And if our shit-for-brains governor and legislature pass the new carry law with no requirements for permits, training or background checks, every whack job in this state will be carrying. Where will the next tragedy be, as we just found out about the senseless shooting at the Christian school in Tennessee.
If it’s not broke, fix it. He and his buddies own the Private Schools being handed money. DuhSantis is dirty and compromised. Hopefully the remaining time in office goes quickly to limit the damage we
Wondering if people of color will be allowed in private schools that my black tax dollars are helping to fund starting July. Am very sure this is for whities only. Sound like past history to me, when black tax dollars were used to build libraries but blacks were not allowed in the libraries. Black tax dollars were used to help build roads for the beaches but they were not allowed to enjoy the beach. Black tax dollars were used to build schools but they got the bad unkept schools. Blacks probably paid more taxes than whitey and got no services or very little. This fthe same situation. I do believe some white parents will feel uncomfortable because their child will sit by a black child, the white parent will complain and the black student will have to leave school, did nothing wrong but society just have to make life comfortable for whitey at the expense of my black tax dollars. Has always been this way I would that people of color not to get their hopes up too high history is repeating itself. All things easy for all whites. Has always been that way.
You are wrong on one point. Not easy for all whites, just the rich ones.
Always playing the “victim” will never propel our kids to success. We do we always try to assess how any and every decision ever made will in some way disenfranchise or hurt black people? News flash – its 2023. Black tax dollars and white tax dollars are not separated. Everyone is on the same playing field if they choose to be. Instead of making excuses for black children, encourage them and let them know that they can be anything they want to be; that they don’t have to depend on “Whitey” to step aside in some way to make a way for their success. They can be, and should be, in full control of their destiny. Such generalizations you make in your statement are old, worn out, played out, and no longer taken serious. White parents are not angry because a black child sits next to them. The myth of hidden racism or the supposed “systematic racism” is hurting and dividing America. The stereotypical “always easy for whites” is also a played out generalization which has no place in modern society. Stop watching old black and white news reels of the 60’s. Move on. By doing so you give example to kids that they do not live in a world of “perpetrators and victims” – but just people – of all races, kinds, colors, and creeds. These same people individually decide what they want to be and attain it in a country which affords them the opportunity to do so.
TruthSayer, thank you. I speak with as many young people as possible especially young men, as I am an older man. I can truthfully say none of my boys ever went to jail. My nephews never went to jail, hopefully part of my conversations with them and the influence of other blood relatives, help steer them in the right direction. I speak with young white men occasionally and try to speak some positive attributes with them. Did a pretty good job with my young blood relatives. Black and white tax dollars are the same I do agree. I also agree that tax dollars tend to go to white neighborhoods more than black neighborhoods. Truth sayer I will continue to watch the old 60, s reels because it they show some of white dirt upon people of color. Theway your governor is going the history of black people will be burned, many people will not know the truth about my peoples hurt from this country and the contributions to and for this society. You maybe right my generalizations maybe old and not taken seriously but they are true. What do white people take serious about other people. White people love to tell other people what they can and can’t watch. I will watch what I want to watch. I will not let whitey contro my life anymore. Don’t know your color but hopefully you got my message.
I enjoyed your response. Until, that is, your last few sentences. Again, generalization, assumptions, accusations, and blame of an entire race of people cannot and will not be taken seriously by those like myself. I respect and will listen to facts. The rest is simply subjective biases. This would be the equivalent of white saying that all blacks are criminals, or any other stereotypical statement possible. None of this will propel us to a better future as Americans.
Read where a black teacher were defending himself against a white student, the teacher was fired. No doubt the white student still attend the school. This white society. Don’t have too much to do with this story, but black tax dollars help build that school for the people and the black teacher is fired because he defended himself against a white male student.Had it been the other way, I’m sure a black student would have been gone not to return. This satanic, demonic, white society.
Where the end is the beginning…
That’s what happens when the majority of people do not read history, it lets it repeat itself. Then the people in power can indoctrinate children into fascism by accusing the opposition of being “woke” and attack it as the one who indoctrinates kids. Just look at some of the past and present school board members in Flagler.
Remember folks, the person who just gutted the Florida public school system is going to try the same thing on a national level. Unless you are one of the top 1%, this will effect your children or grandchildren.
Almost half of my property taxes pay for schools I should be able to send my kid to any school I prefer. Teachers at public School nowadays are paid public robots. Thankful I have a choice now.
Deborah Coffey says
With such disrespect for teachers, your kids won’t get an education no matter where you send them.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Its all a matter of choice, do you want your kids to get a good education, or do you want them to be indocternated? All you have to do is look at the disfunction of our own school board, here in Palm Coast.
NPA Voter says
@ Dennis “indoctrinated” and “dysfunction” – perhaps check your own statements before bashing the school system and lobbying for education?
Never heard of spell check…. Just made my point.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Sorry, Everyone on Flagler live knows my spelling is pitafull. But you all got the message.
Progress in breaking the strangle-hold the system has in supporting underperforming schools & teachers. School choice. Like “my body, my choice”, it’s my kids, my choice.
It’s a good step in the correct direction. Advocating for the kids vs. advocating for failed systems.
Of course he did, his children go to private schools.
Racist Ron and his followers need more stupid people to believe their nonsense lies. Defund schools is a win for the GOP, bad for all children in the state (except millionare kids). The party of hate wins taking us one step closer to modern day Nazi Florida.
It disgusts me to see that today’s far right political terrorists are so blind to the history of, and all that the Statue of Liberty stands for. They continue to tear apart the very fabric of American history and culture, demanding that every school student learn and follow only the most conservative, religiosity-centric beliefs and tenants that are spouted by the GOP in their ongoing culture war against everything they consider to be “woke”. Laws against LGBTQ students and drag performances banned, state colleges and universities prohibited from teaching the true history racial bias and textbooks altered to eliminate references of black historical figures’ race and identity in order to whitewash history in favor of calming the sensitivities of Caucasians who might be offended by the nasty deeds of their forefathers. A big part of the whitewash and coverup is the GOP’s plan to destroy our country’s storied, free public education system to the point that only the poor and mostly minority children will soon be left in the drastically underfunded and intentionally inferior public schools while upper middle-class families send their children to private, mostly religious based schools at public expense to get brainwashed into the far right, conservative ideology instead of real education. This is going to be the future of Amerika, the land where fiction comes to life. We are already approaching what the “Handmaid’s Tale” showed with women’s rights being squashed. Now our children’s right to public education is being squashed. There are efforts in many states to squash the rights of voters. Just yesterday, we heard on the news that in Georgia, the governor is about to sign a proposed law that will squash the rights and independence of that state’s prosecutors, giving the state final say over those elected officials if the state disagrees with prosecutors’ decisions. That is another GOP led, far right effort stemming from the GOP’s anger over the potential prosecution of the disgraced, twice-impeached former president. Folks, all of these drastic and intentional GOP led atrocities are meant to completely change democracy and American freedoms as we know them!
“… free public education system to the point that only the poor and mostly minority children will soon be left in the drastically underfunded and intentionally inferior public schools… ”
Again, the comment seems to perpetuate the (bias) idea that if a child goes to a public school they will automatically NOT get a competitive education.
Again, that is a fallacy in my opinion.
“… public expense to get brainwashed into the far right, conservative ideology instead of real education. …”
Yes, brainwashing… I agree, there is so very much of it being done nowadays.
Just an opinion.
Sad but true…. they are increasingly turning the country into a Christo-Fascist theocracy.
Gov. DeSantis just lost my vote. Taxpayers should not be paying into private schools.
Former Teacher says
For those of you who bash the public schools and the dedicated teachers who are trying to educate our children, have you ever actually spent more than a few minutes in a classroom setting and observed? MOST teachers are like salmon trying to swim upstream to teach the basics because there are so many entitled, ill-behaved and coddled kids out there who think they can do anything they want, not follow rules of civility, bully other students, mouth off to the staff, and it’s all okay because soccer mom in her Lexus SUV will never take a teacher’s word for it when the precious child does something wrong.
The teachers are at a hug disadvantage, highly underpaid for what they are expected to do, and forced to spend valuable time trying to teach things the kids SHOULD have learned at home, like basic manners and respect for the adults trying to help them. Far too much exposure to unrealistic video games, idiot fodder like Tik Tok, games that show violence with no consequences … the list goes on. I left teaching because I was appalled at how little discipline so many of these kids have now compared to how I was raised and expected to act in school. All they want to do is play with their electronic devices and whine if you take them away.
I often found that it was the higher income “privileged” students who were the most ill behaved with comments like, “Go ahead and contact my father, do you KNOW who he is?” Now this school voucher expansion is going to take the tax dollars of disadvantaged families to provide “opportunity” for those who already have an advantage. Disgusting.
Your input is right on. Wonder how many of the “advantaged” children will benefit from their “privatized” schools at our expense when they spend all their time on social media and learn little to benefit/equip them as adults. They have the advantage of all the electronic media and will use little of it for intellectual development. Teachers will have a choice to make, either try to teach those who believe they already know everything or teach children who are hungry for knowledge and know how to work. Which school do you think they will be in? The “middle class” did not evolve from the wealthy, but the wealthy can degenerate easily.
Deborah Coffey says
Bravo! From another retired teacher and Asst. Principal.
Former Teacher: Well said, and thank you. I would bet my bottom dollar that most commenters in favor of tax dollars pulled away from public schools have no clue what school is all about these days. They are suckered into “parental rights,” when parents have always had rights, but don’t bother exercise them.
My granddaughter had all advanced classes in the public system, and collected college level credit while in high school. You know what I’m talking about, but these voucher supporters never mention this. Public schools continue to need our support, and are a lot better than they are given credit for by the far right.
I was a substitute teacher for awhile, and I can tell you that this “grooming” and “indoctrination” shit is just that: shit. It is also an incentive for good teaching staff to leave the state, which is another Republican goal.
Just another distraction while heading towards authoritarianism.
If it’s not broke, fix it. He and his buddies own the Private Schools being handed money. DuhSantis is dirty and compromised. Hopefully the remaining time in office goes quickly to limit the damage
Ron rides again, losing voters each an every day. Now with him changing the guns laws what happened in Nashville could end up happening in Florida private or public schools.
He just doesn’t seem to care about childrens lives or safety. He didn’t care about adults or children during the COVID out break.
And he thinks he is going to be President, not a fat chance of that.
EVERYONE should do an internet search for gun raffles in FL and across the nation…way too many are being run to “benefit” schools and kids sports programs…and the gun being touted is non other than an AK or AR-15. And who do they ask to sell the tickets…
CJ: “And who do they ask to sell the tickets…” Right to Lifers.
While I have no doubt this will impact a higher percentage of black people than white people, this is not a purely racial move. This is guided by ideology. The far right wing-nuts want to rewrite history and control what our kids leatn and think. More Nazism than Klanism. The end result is still horrific.
Bill C says
It would be fair if the religious schools lost their tax exempt status, otherwise they’re collecting twice.
Concerned Citizen says
Just want to let everyone know that as of last week there are officially NO public schools in New Orleans, they have all either been closed and merged into other schools. The existing schools in NOLA proper are either private or charter schools funded with federal (public) dollars. This is exactly what will happen here if DeSantis and his cronies keep getting their way. In Hillsborough county, the school superintendent and his brother (both DeSantis buddies) were caught milking the school district for about ten million dollars for a crappy school interface called Canvas. This is just one of dozens of examples of these people stealing money from public schools and programs to line their own pockets. I don’t have a problem with private schools but I don’t want my tax dollars being used to fund them. For all of you grandparents voting for DeSantis who have grandchildren in this state, keep this in mind if you want your grandchildren to have access to an education that would make them competitive to colleges outside the state of Florida. Support public school teachers and schools and vote against people who run for school board positions with zero skin in the game.
Concerned: There are a lot of us grandparents who think DeSantis sucks. Stop categorizing.
Ronald Schrein says
This is what Republicans always do. If it’s not tax breaks for the rich, it’s subsidizing private and religious schools that already charge hefty tuition to the wealthy families who choose to send their kids their.
@Saying it again,
because it has already happened before.