Bill aligning, expanding education choice scholarship programs moves to governor’s desk

Lisa Buie

The Florida Senate gave final approval in March to HB7067, aimed at aligning policies between two education choice scholarship programs.

A bill that expands and aligns two K-12 scholarship programs for economically disadvantaged students has been sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his expected signature.

HB 7067 is aimed at aligning policies between the Family Empowerment Scholarship, adopted last year and serving 18,000 students, and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, created in 2001 and serving 108,000 students.

“This session, revising the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program was our state’s priority, because no matter what economic challenges a student has, investing in the education of our children is always a win,”  Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, told senators when the bill won final approval in March.

Diaz, who was chairman of the Senate Education Committee, shepherded the bill through the legislative process. Eight Democrats joined the Republican majority in supporting the bill.

The bill would increase the allowed enrollment growth in the Family Empowerment Scholarship program. Under current law, the program can grow by up to 0.25 of total public-school enrollment each year, which is roughly 7,000 students. The bill would increase that growth to 1 percent, or roughly 28,000 students.

The bill gives clear priority to renewal students in both programs and provides for a gradual increase in household income eligibility over time. That provision allows the eligible income level in the Family Empowerment Scholarship, currently 300 percent of federal poverty, to increase by 25 percentage points in the next year if more than 5 percent of the available scholarships remain unawarded.

The income limit for Tax Credit Scholarships would remain at 260 percent of poverty.

The bill also allows students who receive scholarships in either program to remain on the scholarship until they graduate or turn 21.

DeSantis has until June 30 to act on the bill.

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