Florida House Passes Bill Expanding School Choice
The Florida House Passed a bill on Friday increasing school choice by expanding school vouchers, with bipartisan support.
The bill broadens the parameters of who’s eligible for Florida’s school choice scholarships. Currently, the program allows parents of students with particular needs to register and attend private schools that serve those needs. The new bill, however, looks to include all K-12 Florida students eligible for a public school to register. The measure passed the house with overwhelming support 83 to 27, while a similar bill is still making its way through the Senate.
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The program will cost $209 million, prioritizing non-wealthy Floridians, defined as those whose household income is below 185% of the federal poverty level. It prioritizes households whose income does not exceed 400% of the national poverty level in that subset.
The bill also deregulates several aspects of public schooling, including more flexibility in transferring student records, allowing for vehicles other than busses to transport kids, and authorizing the commissioner of education to create an online portal to show parents available schools and their soon-to-be-built profiles.
Florida Senator Corey Simon explained the reasoning behind the bill.
“We can continue to fight over the system of education, or we can start funding the students that are impacted by that education.”
Florida Senator COREY SIMON: "We can continue to fight over the system of education, or we can start funding the students that are impacted by that education." pic.twitter.com/9v4ZSVI68F
— Corey A. DeAngelis, school choice evangelist (@DeAngelisCorey) March 16, 2023
However, not everyone was happy with the measure. Florida Representative Robin Bartleman argued that a voucher system involved not fully monitoring tax dollars.
“Everyone in this room wants to respect parent choice, but if we’re not putting guardrails in place, if we don’t have accountability, if we’re not monitoring the tax dollars, and if we’re not funding them….”
Bartleman also argued that the bill would bankrupt the public school system, presumably due to a lack of participation.
“…remember two assumptions were made by staff, we can afford this because not everyone is going to take a voucher, that’s not true.If our assumptions are false, we’re going to devastate the debt state budget. We’re going to devastate our public school system, and we’re gonna have to go into reserves that first year,”
However, multiple observers on Twitter read between the lines, pointing out that Bartleman’s argument implies public schools won’t be parents’ first pick of education if given a choice.
“How would vouchers bankrupt the city public schools? Unless you’re saying that, if offered a choice, many parents would not choose to send their children to these schools. So what is the real issue? Choice or performance?”
How would vouchers bankrupt the city public schools? Unless you’re saying that, if offered a choice, many parents would not choose to send their children to these schools. So what is the real issue? Choice or performance?
— Alexis K (@AlexisKat6) March 11, 2023
the money doesn't belong to the government schools.
education funding is meant for educating children – not for protecting a particular institution.
we should fund students, not systems.
— Corey A. DeAngelis, school choice evangelist (@DeAngelisCorey) September 28, 2021
One user even pointed out the material detriment of continuing to funnel money into the public school system, aside from simply limiting choice.
The slogan “save our schools” actually means “maintain the powerful balance where teacher’s unions continue to protect bad teachers, restrict your choice of school, bankrupt your state with unsustainable pensions and waste money on unnecessary administration.“
— Curt (Libertarian) (@checkmatestate) October 12, 2020
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Republican Florida Representative Thad Altman expanded on this idea. He explained that money should fund students’ education, not necessarily one education system, allowing competition.
“With this vote today, we will send a clear message, not just to the people of Florida, but to the people of America, that here in this state, we believe in funding our students – not in funding systems,”
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