Putting Florida’s newest K-12 scholarship program in perspective

Florida’s newest K-12 scholarship program takes a novel approach. It targets children who attend public schools, and fall short on third- or fourth-grade reading assessments. It offers them $500 to pay for tutoring or curriculum to help raise their reading scores.

John Legg, a former Florida Senate Education Chairman, explains the significance in a new column for The 74:

This scholarship was championed by Michael Bileca, a Miami-Dade Republican, who is chairman of the House Education Committee, and is conceptually reminiscent of the free tutoring programs developed by bipartisan education advocates under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. This scholarship is driven by the educational principle that children must learn to read so they can then read to learn.

Notably, though, Bileca did not try to simply thread more money into district elementary reading budgets. When asked why he instead sought the reading scholarship, which gives parents the decision on how to spend it, he was direct: “The parent is the most influential person in the child’s life.”

His point — giving all parents more influence over the way their child learns — is the core principle of educational choice. This scholarship, perhaps more than any other, helps to underscore the broad dimensions of this belief. Though our national debate on choice still gets mired in the strict dichotomy of public vs. private, that distinction is rapidly losing its relevance.

Legg is also co-founder of a Pasco County charter school and a member of the board of Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog and will help administer the Reading Scholarship program.

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