By Patricia Levesque, Executive Director
During the past 20 years, hundreds of thousands of Florida families have benefited from educational opportunity. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to hear more than a dozen Florida parents share their support for the state’s private school choice scholarship programs at yesterday’s Senate Education Committee.
Senate Bill 7070 contains several education proposals, including the creation of a new K-12 scholarship program to help 15,000 low-income students attend a private school of their choice.
Before committee members voted to approve the bill, more than a dozen parents shared their support for the new program, with several asking lawmakers to raise the income requirement so middle-class families have access to the same opportunities.
Florida has a long history of providing scholarships to low-income students. The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC), enacted 18 years ago, is one of the most-studied school choice programs in the nation. The results are clear: participating students are making academic gains and seeing positive long-term outcomes, while students who remain in public schools also improve.
Recent proposals from Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Senate continue in this tradition by providing more scholarship opportunities to low-income students who would otherwise be eligible to participate in the FTC program. It is time to provide equal access to the countless hard-working, middle-class families who have some of the fewest educational options for their children of any group in our state.
Parents like Margie, Veronica and Becky.
Margie is a single mom and a small business owner. She knows her sons would excel in a smaller school environment, but she can’t afford a private education for them because she makes just above the income limit for a private school choice scholarship.
Owning a local farm means that Veronica and her family are always at risk of a bad crop year, which they have been experiencing lately. They don’t qualify for any private school choice programs and need help to make sure their kids can receive a quality education.
Becky is a veteran public school teacher. She found a great educational fit for her children at a local private school. However, they had to leave the school because her family could no longer afford the cost of tuition.
Sadly, these families fall into the gap where their income is too high to receive a state scholarship and yet still too low to afford an education that works for their child.
They need to be included in Florida’s new K-12 scholarship program.
Floridians agree. In a recent survey of 800 registered Florida voters, respondents overwhelmingly support empowering additional families with access to an education scholarship account (ESA). When asked who should be able to participate:
- 55 percent of respondents believe that all students, regardless of income should be eligible
- 31 percent believed it should be available to middle-class and low-income families.
- Only 14 percent of respondents believed that a program should be limited to low-income families.
I hope you will join me in calling on lawmakers to ensure that more Florida families have access to quality educational options, both public and private, that unlock their child’s highest potential.