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Education legislation

Education savings accounts: their evolution in Arizona

Editor’s note: This post is the second installment of a short series on the origins of K-12 education savings account programs. In the first installment, Dan Lips, a visiting fellow with the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity and the originator of the concept which eventually became the AZESA program, described the turn of the millennium school choice debates that shaped the development of his original ESA proposal. Below, redefinED executive editor Matthew Ladner describes the circumstances that led to the adoption of the first ESA program in Arizona. “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One...

Florida’s Principal Autonomy initiative showing signs of success

Editor’s note: Throughout August, redefinED is revisiting stories that shine a light on extraordinary educators. Today’s post, first published in August 2018, features two strong school leaders, one in Palm Beach and one in St. Petersburg, who saw critical needs at their schools and took the necessary steps to address them.   When Robin Brown took the helm as principal of West Riviera Elementary School in Palm Beach in 2017, the school was struggling. It had been designated a “D” by the Florida Department of Education. Realizing the situation, Brown made critical changes. She assigned 28 teachers to the grade level she felt...

Why one Democratic state lawmaker voted for educational choice

At a Town Hall in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, State Rep. Wengay Newton kept it real. More than a dozen advocates and constituents who live in or attend schools in his St. Petersburg district spent their evening hearing from one of the six Democrats who voted this spring in support of SB 7070, a bill creating the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES). The bill is now law and provides state-funded scholarships to low-income and working-class families who want their children to attend a K-12 private school. Many families who are being awarded the new scholarship are from his district. Statewide,...

Education savings accounts: a vehicle for parental choice

Executive editor’s note: This is the first in a short series of articles documenting the origins of Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program. AZESA was the first education savings account (ESA) program, and it seemed like a good idea to tell this story before any of us involved got hit by a passenger bus or suffered some other sort of calamity. ESAs started in Arizona, and Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee have followed suit, while bills are being filed in dozens of other states. In this post, Dan Lips, a visiting fellow with the Foundation for Research on Equal...

An education choice advocate reflects on benefits of A+ plan

Editor’s note: redefinED continues to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the K-12 reforms launched by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, collectively known as the A+ accountability plan, with this post from Step Up For Students' executive director for advocacy and civic engagement. In her first-person piece, she recounts how she became aware of the legislation that transformed education throughout the state and how it impacted her family. Back in 1999, when Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature decided to put the A+ Plan into effect -- thereby increasing accountability for schools, rewarding them for improved outcomes and creating options for...

podcastED: New Florida Board of Education chair Andy Tuck on school choice, teacher pay and Florida’s progress

SEBRING, Fla. – When it comes to public education, Andy Tuck, the new chair of the Florida Board of Education, is an all-of-the-above kind of guy. His wife is a district schoolteacher. His children attended district schools. They had the option of enrolling in an International Baccalaureate program he approved as a district school board member. But Tuck doesn’t think it makes sense to limit educational choice to district options. Charters. Vouchers. Education savings accounts. Giving more parents more access to all of them, he said, is “critical.” “I felt like my children got a first-class education at Sebring High...

Court showdown over religious freedom looms

After nearly two decades of debate, the U.S. Supreme Court will finally get a chance to determine how state courts may interpret “Blaine Amendments.” The court in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002) previously had ruled state school voucher programs do not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But whether state constitution “Blaine Amendments” could be used to deny voucher programs remained unresolved. “Blaine Amendments” are 19th century vestiges of America’s anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant past. Today, 37 states have amendments to their constitutions preventing religious institutions from indirectly, or in some places like Florida, directly receiving state...
school choice

DeSantis budget cuts to impact Florida charter schools

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has vetoed just over $1.35 million in funding that would have gone to several charter schools around the state, including Academy at the Farm in Pasco County and Somerset Academy in Jefferson County. The cuts were part of the $131 million in appropriations the governor excised from the $90.9 billion budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which begins Monday. The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The veto disappointed Ray Polk, principal at Academy at the Farm. The K-8 school had requested $650,000 to fund infrastructure improvements and plans to expand to begin...