The nation’s largest education savings account program would triple in size under a bill filed yesterday by the Florida Senate’s lead education budget writer.
SB 902 by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would boost funding for Gardiner Scholarships from $71.2 million to $200 million.
It would also expand the list of conditions that allow students to qualify for the scholarships, which are available to children with specific special needs. The bill would make scholarships available to hearing and visually impaired students, those with traumatic brain injuries and those who are hospital or homebound.
The scholarships are designed to be worth approximately 90 percent of the amount the state would spend to educate a child in public schools. Parents can use the money to pay for private school tuition, homeschool curriculum, therapies, public-school courses, college savings and other approved education-related expenses.
This school year, the program serves more than 7,700 students, making it the largest education savings account program in the nation.
Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog and employs me, helps administer the scholarship program. It receives money from the state, worth 3 percent of the amount it gives out in scholarships, to pay for administrative expenses.
Simmons, the sponsor of the bill, is a longtime ally of Andy Gardiner, the former Senate President whose family provides the program’s namesake. Simmons chairs the Senate subcommittee in charge of education spending.
The House has not yet released details of its spending plans for Gardiner scholarships, but it has historically been supportive of the program.