Florida legislature sends universal school choice bill to DeSantis’s desk

Florida State Capitol Buildings In Tallahassee Florida
The old and new Florida State Capitol buildings in downtown Tallahassee, Florida. (iStock)

Florida legislature sends universal school choice bill to DeSantis’s desk

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A universal school choice bill is headed to the desk of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) after the state senate passed the legislation on a 26-12 vote Thursday.

Once the governor’s signature is affixed to the legislation, Florida will become the fourth state this year to enact a universal school choice program after similar bills were passed in Utah, Iowa, and Arkansas.

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The legislation, which expands an existing school choice program to all K-12 students, will allow families to use state funds to pay for private school tuition, home tutoring, and other school expenses. The bill had been marked as HB 1, signifying its priority in the legislative session. The state House passed the bill last week on an 83-27 vote.

“The Florida model factors in the unique learning needs of every child to deliver education by empowering parents and students to choose the best way to achieve their educational goals, regardless of zip code, race, or income,” Florida House Speaker Paul Renner said.

Conservative school choice activists celebrated the passage of the bill, saying it further solidifies Florida as a national leader in education freedom.

“Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative leaders like House Speaker Paul Renner, as well as Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, deserve great credit for advancing policies that put students and families first,” Heritage Foundation education experts Lindsey Burke and Jason Bedrick said in a statement. “By expanding the state’s innovative education savings account policy to all K-12 students, Florida likely will retain its position as one of the best states in the nation for education freedom.”

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The bill has been continually opposed by the state’s teacher’s unions, including the Florida Education Association, which said the bill will “direct billions of taxpayer dollars to unaccountable, private corporate-run schools — at the expense of the neighborhood public schools that serve most of our kids.”

“The public schools that most families choose need lawmakers’ support,” Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said earlier this month. “All of Florida’s children should be able to get the education they deserve and need at fully funded and staffed public schools. This bill is going to make life tougher for a lot of kids. It will mean fewer resources in their schools and fewer teachers and staff to meet their day-to-day needs.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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