President Office — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 23, 2023
Senate Passes Historic School Choice, Parental Empowerment Legislation
Offers education savings account for every K-12 student, cuts red tape hindering public schools
The Senate today passed, House Bill 1, Education, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Corey Simon (R-Tallahassee), Chair of the Senate Committee on Education Pre-K-12. HB 1 contains a comprehensive package of innovations that promote parental involvement and customized K-12 education in Florida. The legislation empowers parents to guide their children’s education by providing for an Education Savings Account for every student in the K-12 system. Incorporating recommendations from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, the bill also takes the first step towards reducing onerous and excessive regulations on public schools.
“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, we are going to stop funding systems and start funding students,” said Senator 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 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.”
“This visionary bill makes school choice a reality for every child in every family across our great state by providing parents the chance to guide how and where the funding for their children’s education is spent,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples). “Universal school choice means that every school has a chance to compete for students, and their parents can decide the best fit. Additionally, 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.”
Education Savings Account for Every K-12 Student
Florida currently offers scholarship programs for eligible students (typically students from lower income families) to attend private schools that a parent determines will better serve their particular needs. These programs include the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC) and the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) for students attending private school. Scholarships are funded at an amount commensurate with the per-student amount appropriated for students attending a public school. Florida also offers a Family Empowerment Scholarship for students with unique abilities, which provides educational savings accounts that allow parents to direct funding for their child either to a private school, or other educational services and materials. Scholarships for students with unique abilities are funded at a higher per-student amount, determined in part by the type of developmental disability and the cost of services the child may need. Eligibility for all school choice programs is currently limited by state law in the form of an income or enrollment cap.
HB 1 expands eligibility for Florida’s School Choice Scholarships to all students who are residents of Florida and eligible to enroll in kindergarten through grade 12 in a public school. Under the bill, parents will receive an education savings account to take dollars the State of Florida has appropriated for their child in the public education system and choose among a variety of options to customize their child’s education.
Cutting Red Tape Hindering Public Schools
The bill makes several immediate revisions to Florida’s Education Code, identified by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. For example, the bill reduces hurdles to a 5-year temporary teacher certificate for anyone with a bachelor’s degree and for those with three years of effective or highly effective service. The bill repeals the requirement that a student take one online course in order to graduate from high school, which is not currently required in private schools. The bill also offers districts flexibility in facility costs for new construction, and offers student transportation flexibility to improve efficiency, while maintaining student safety.
To reduce additional regulation on public schools, HB 1 requires the State Board of Education to develop for adoption during the 2024 Legislative Session recommendations to repeal and revise portions of the Early Learning-20 Education Code, Title XLVIII, Florida Statutes. The Board is required to consider input from teachers, superintendents, administrators, school boards, public and private postsecondary institutions, home educators, and other entities.