DeSantis signs universal school choice bill in boost to his 2024 credentials

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FILE – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis smiles as he ends his State of the State address during a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. DeSantis’ allies are gaining confidence in his White House prospects as former President Donald Trump’s legal woes mount. (AP Photo/Phil Sears, File) Phil Sears/AP

DeSantis signs universal school choice bill in boost to his 2024 credentials

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed legislation Monday establishing universal school choice in Florida, notching another significant policy victory as the governor eyes a presidential campaign.

DeSantis signed House Bill 1 into state law at a press conference at Christopher Columbus High School, an all-boys Catholic high school. The new law expands eligibility for the state’s school choice program to all students and makes Florida the fourth state to enact universal school choice during the 2023 legislative session.

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FLORIDA LEGISLATURE SENDS UNIVERSAL SCHOOL CHOICE BILL TO DESANTIS’S DESK

“This is a huge thing in the state of Florida, and we’re happy today that we’re able to do even more to make people’s dreams become a reality,” DeSantis said at the bill signing. “This bill is a major game-changer. I think that we are yet again leading the country when it comes to things like education choice.”

The law will allow families to use state education dollars to pay for private school tuition and other education-related expenses, expanding an existing state school choice program that was previously only available to students in lower income brackets. It is the fourth universal school choice law passed by a state this year, following Iowa, Utah, and Arkansas. Arizona and West Virginia previously enacted universal school choice programs.

“Fact of the matter is our school districts perform better because they’ve embraced choice,” DeSantis said. “Our charter schools perform better because they have to compete for individual students. They’re not entitled to get anybody as a charter school, and of course, having private schools that can service the needs of parents so that a parent will take that [school choice] scholarship and say, ‘You know what? I want to go to this particular school because of what they’re offering.’ All that has created a very positive feedback.”

The new law gives the Florida governor another legislative victory to point to as he is widely expected to launch a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination later this year.

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The legislation was universally opposed by the Florida Education Association, the state’s teachers union, which said the newly expanded programs would siphon funding away from public schools.

“H.B. 1 will siphon billions away from the schools where nearly 90% of Florida’s students learn and grow,” FEA President Andrew Spar said last week. “This bill will leave children with fewer resources in their already underfunded classrooms and fewer teachers and staff to meet their needs. Sending tax dollars to unaccountable, corporate-run private schools is just wrong. This bill is a political priority of a governor who puts his political ambition ahead of Florida’s families.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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