The nation’s largest private school choice program will offer more generous scholarships to participating students. And the largest education savings account program will be able to serve more children.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed school choice legislation supported by a majority of the Legislature’s Democrats and all of its Republicans. The governor has long supported school choice and had already approved a more-contentious education bill.
HB 15 strengthens the Gardiner Scholarship program, which provides education savings accounts for children with special needs, and the tax credit scholarship program, which helps 98,000 low-income and working-class students pay private school tuition.
Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer both programs.
During a special session, lawmakers revised the budget to send more funding to public schools at Scott’s behest. The governor also approved that funding increase Monday.
Tax credit scholarship amounts have long been pegged to public-school funding. Right now, a scholarship is worth about 82 percent of the state’s core per-pupil public school operating funding, or about $5,900.
The new law would allow students in secondary schools, where tuition costs tend to be higher, to receive more funding.
- Elementary school students could receive 88 percent of the per-student average in the Florida Education Finance Program for public schools, or $6,420.
- Middle school students could receive 92 percent, or about $6,712.
- High school students could receive 96 percent, or about $7,004.
The measure also broadens the conditions that allow students to qualify for Gardiner Scholarships. Students with rare diseases and those with vision or hearing impairments can now qualify.
The new law includes provisions to improve the administration of the two private educational choice programs. Military families will be able to apply for tax credit scholarships year-round. Double-billing the same services to Medicaid and the Gardiner Scholarship program is outlawed, a new safeguard to help prevent fraud.