Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in his second State of the State address focused on teacher pay increases and thanked lawmakers for their support of education choice during last year’s session, including two scholarship programs that expanded opportunities for families.
Speaking on the first day of the 2020 legislative session, DeSantis said the state’s approach to K-12 education should rest on recruiting and retaining great teachers and promoting education choice so that parents, particularly low-income parents, can find the best schools for their children.
He also spoke of the importance of measuring results through accountability.
“Last year, we faced the prospect of thousands of Florida families toiling on waiting lists for various scholarship programs,” DeSantis said. “Standing here last year, I asked the Legislature to act, and you delivered.”
He then recognized Brittney and Jeremy Wilson and their son, Josiah, who was on the wait list last year for a Gardiner Scholarship. The Gardiner Scholarship, which serves more than 13,000 students, provides funding for educational programs for children with unique abilities.
“Thanks to our work in 2019, last year’s wait list was cleared, and the Wilsons were able to get Josiah on a scholarship so his educational needs can be met,” DeSantis said.
He also mentioned the new Family Empowerment Scholarship program, which was approved last year and serves roughly 18,000 students.
“Last year, we had nearly 13,000 low-income families on the waiting list for a tax credit scholarship. Thanks to the enactment of the new Family Empowerment scholarship, these families have been liberated from the waiting list,” DeSantis said.
To illustrate his point, DeSantis recognized Talethia Edwards, who was in the gallery with her seven children, including three who are using Family Empowerment Scholarships.
“All Florida parents, regardless of income or zip code, should have the ability to choose the best school for their children,” he said.
DeSantis also gave a nod to the state’s 658 public charter schools, which serve 314,000 students, 70 percent of whom are Hispanic and African American and more than 50 percent of whom are from lower-income families.
“When we increase educational choice and provide innovative learning opportunities, we can help students reach their full potential,” he said.
The 2020 legislative session is scheduled to run for 60 days and is expected to take up a number of education choice-related issues.