Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Historic Legislation to Expand School Choice Options to All Florida Students

Still from Rumble video of the Governor’s March 27 press conference

Press release from the Office of Governor Ron DeSantis

MIAMI — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill (HB) 1, which expands available school choice options for all students in Florida by eliminating financial eligibility restrictions and the current enrollment cap. Florida already has 1.3 million students who learn full-time in a school of their family’s choosing – larger than the entire K-12 student enrollments of 35 other states. The new law, HB 1, will further cement Florida’s position as the nation’s leader in school choice. For more information about HB 1, click here.  

“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. When you combine private scholarships, charter schools, and district choice programs, Florida already has 1.3 million students attending a school of their choosing,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “These programs have been instrumental in elevating student achievement over the past twenty years. I am grateful to the Florida Legislature, Speaker Renner, and President Passidomo for prioritizing this legislation and presenting it to me at the beginning of this year’s legislative session.”

“This is a monumental day in Florida history,” said Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “Thanks to Governor DeSantis and the legislature, we continue to be the undisputed leader in school choice. Florida will always make good on our promise to ensure every single child has access to a world-class education.”

“The goal of making school choice a reality for every child across our great state has been a long time coming, and with the steadfast resolve and leadership of Governor DeSantis, Speaker Renner, Senator Simon, Rep. Tuck, and many others, today is the day school choice is here for every Florida family,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. “Additionally, this bill reduces some of the outdated, unnecessary, and quite frankly, burdensome regulations public schools have to abide by. By reducing red tape that burdens our traditional public schools, these institutions, which have served our communities for generations, will have a meaningful chance to compete right alongside other school choice options.”

“Florida puts parents and students first by giving them the freedom to customize their education to fit every child’s unique needs,” said House Speaker Paul Renner. “Thanks to the steadfast support of Governor DeSantis and President Passidomo, the relentless work by Representative Tuck and Senator Simon, and the passionate commitment to educational excellence by countless school choice advocates, Florida has delivered the greatest expansion of educational freedom in the nation and will unleash a wave of opportunity for millions of families.”  

“This legislation is a transformational opportunity to make it clear that the money follows the child, and parents have a right to guide their child’s education as they see fit,” said Senator Corey Simon. “We recognize that parents are a child’s first and best teachers. A street address or level of income should never replace the vital and irreplaceable role of a parent to decide what academic experience best fits the needs of their child. This bill is about access and opportunity for all students and every family in our state. I am thankful and blessed that my mother worked so hard and made many sacrifices to make certain I had the opportunity to attend a good school. Not all students are so lucky, but that changes today, and it changes because here in the free state of Florida, with the visionary leadership of Governor DeSantis, we are going to stop funding systems and start funding students.”

“We are empowering every family and every child to achieve their educational goals. HB 1 is a testament to the good work the Florida Legislature can accomplish when all sides come together,” said Representative Kaylee Tuck. “We took in constant feedback from parents, students, educators, and our colleagues in the House and Senate to turn a good bill into a great bill. I was honored to carry this legislation to expand school choice and opportunity for Florida families and students.” 

HB 1 eliminates the current financial eligibility restrictions and allows any student who is eligible to enroll in K-12 to participate in available school choice options. The bill also continues to prioritize awards to students with household incomes that do not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty level while incorporating a second priority to award scholarships to students who live in households with incomes between 185 percent of the federal poverty level and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. HB 1 also increases the annual scholarship adjustment for the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities, from one percent to three percent, to address high demand and wait lists.

The bill also eliminates the current enrollment cap and the exemptions to the maximum number of students who can participate in the Family Empowerment Scholarship-Equal Opportunity. For students who are not full-time enrolled in public or private school or who are not Home Education Program students, there will be a cap of 20,000 new scholarships for the 2023-2024 school year and a cap of 40,000 new scholarships for every year after that.

Additionally, this legislation requires the Office of K-12 School Choice to develop an online portal that enables parents to choose the best educational options for their students. The bill also eliminates the restrictive requirement that students must complete at least one credit through a virtual course to graduate.

Finally, to make the teaching profession more accessible, the bill removes red tape and bureaucracy from the profession by allowing the general education requirement to be waived for teachers who have had three years in the classroom if they have been rated ‘effective’ or ‘highly effective’ for three consecutive years. The bill also expands the length of a temporary teaching certificate from three years to five years.

To further reduce bureaucracy in the profession, the bill requires the State Board of Education to recommend additional repeals and revisions to the education code. 

  • Maybe this will give today’s parents better choices for their kids.

    • Why would someone give a negative vote to this choice for our children?
      Maybe someone who works for the school board or the teachers union.
      Or maybe a Democrat.

  • Next we should just make homeschooling the default requirement. Then parents must apply to schools to allow their kids in. Keep out the behavioral issues.

  • Another press release form the governor’s office. Can we see press releases from other interested parties?

    Among the problems – besides for giving tax dollars to less regulated – see performance testing – and often sectarian private schools with no input from tax payers, the governor and his legislative lapdogs are wildly underestimating the cost of this give away along with the damage to our public schools.

  • Does school choice for all improve proficiency in all schools?

    Until recently, proficiency was a targeted goal mainly directed at Title I schools under the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ and its replacement mostly in name only, ‘Every Student Succeeds Act.’

    The problem with that legislation was a district had to first fail before a Title I parent had a choice in schools. It is difficult to imagine a parent who gets just one chance to raise and educate a child would accept no choice until the child is failed by the system.

    House Bill 1 returns school choice back to the parents. Current data shows districts which have school choice have improved the public school performance.

    Pundits, however, often conflute school performance – as evaluated by the state – with student performance which parents are free to judge on their own terms.

    The resistance to ‘choice for all’ was based upon choice previously being based on income level; i.e. class. While perceived as a solution to education disparity, in effect it aggravated it even more with more Title I schools failing.

    A second resistance to HB1 is the notion wealthy families now have the same school choice as lower income families thus diluting resources once intended for a special, underrepresented group. Philosophically, it is self-refuting to appeal for equality when considering a statutory mandate of ‘equal access to education’ while advocating some should, or should not, have that equal access. Politically, it’s just dumb.

    A Third resistance is the most troubling; the teachers unions. When an unelected body has strong political influence over public education policy as well as employees, it functions as a fifth wheel resistance to any legislative progress; that is, duly elected representatives of all, not some. The unions have only themselves to serve and keep as many teachers employed as possible regardless of need, standards of performance, or budgets of local districts.

    HB1 probably has some faults and has ‘self healing’ provisions such as the state board being tasked to recommend where the tweeks should be made. The waiting list bureaucracy will most certainly be a squeaky wheel for a while.

    The main message in HB1 is a win-win-win for education in Florida, students, and parents.

    The challenge, however, is for parents to exploit this initiative and remain proactive in the interest of their children’s education future.

    • RE: Unions

      The voucher system position of the Florida Education Association (on its website) is:

      “There’s no link between vouchers and gains in student achievement. There’s no conclusive evidence that vouchers improve the achievement of students who use them to attend private school. Nor is there any validity to claims that, by creating a “competitive marketplace” for students, vouchers force public schools to improve.”

      The evidence across all data platforms says otherwise. Here is one representational finding based on data:

      “More than three dozen studies published over the past two decades provide overwhelming evidence that voucher programs are associated with relatively modest increases in public school performance. The improvements appear to be most marked when evaluating student-level performance—rather than school- or district-level performance—and when private alternatives are in closer proximity to public schools.

      While improving public school performance is not a key objective of voucher and ESA programs, empirical evidence indicates fears of diminished public school quality should not be considered as a serious risk associated with such programs.” – The Cascade Policy Institute

      The ‘modest increases in public school performance’ is far better than FEA’s nonsensical claim, “Where there is conclusive evidence is that investing more money in public education improves student achievement.”

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