Education savings accounts

Gardiner Scholarships give students with autism a homeschool lifeline

Every day was a battle for Jared Wendlberger in school. The 7-year old, at the time, would come home in tears, after his backpack and lunch were stolen by his classmates. Jared, who has high-functioning autism, was placed in an emotional behavior disorder class in the second grade. Some of the students in the class were two years older and several of them were violent, his mother, Sandy Edwards, remembers. Jared was bullied regularly and it affected him on many levels. He was self-conscious about everything and became withdrawn. He was unable to finish his school work and was performing poorly. But the...

Education Next releases annual survey on universal voucher support

Public support for universal school vouchers has increased 9 percentage points to 54 percent in the last year, according to the 2018 Education Next annual survey of American public opinion on education. Meanwhile, opposition has fallen by 6 percentage points to 31 percent. However, Martin West, one of the survey authors, cautioned against interpreting the increased support as a long-term trend since support has fluctuated over the years. “What stands out to me is a variety of proposals for expanding parental choice in education that draw more support than opposition from the American public,” said West, professor of education at...

Nation’s first public school reading voucher opens for applications Monday

Starting Monday, Florida families can apply for the first voucher in the nation aimed at helping public elementary school students who struggle with reading. Already, more than 2,400 have signed up on an interest list. Step Up For Students, a nonprofit that publishes this blog, is the only state-approved scholarship organization that has chosen to administer the program. After conducting a beta test last week, Step Up is turning on its online application for all comers on Monday. Families can apply through the homepage. The scholarship program is fueled by a longstanding academic concern: Students who can’t read by the end...

Florida proposes rules for first-of-its-kind reading scholarship program

Starting next school year, Florida public elementary-school students who are disappointed in their reading test results may have a new option to help raise their score. The state Department of Education released a draft rule last week to carry out the state's new Reading Scholarship Account program. Students in grades three through five who score below a Level 3 (generally considered a passing score) in reading on their third- or fourth-grade Florida Standards Assessments can apply for the scholarships, worth $500, while supplies last. Lawmakers set aside $9.7 million for the program. The law allows parents to use the accounts to pay...
Florida Capitol

What all is in that massive Florida education bill?

Today, the Florida Senate is expected to vote on the biggest education bill of this year’s legislative session. A contentious teachers union certification proposal might overshadow the rest of HB 7055. But the bill also contains a wide range of provisions related to charter schools and educational choice. Here’s a rundown of what the Senate's proposed rewrite would do. Charter schools High-performing charter schools would be able to replicate — meaning, open a similar school in a new location — twice a year, rather than just once. Last year, HB 7069 allowed high-performing charters to replicate more than once if they opened new schools in...

Fla. Senate panel tweaks wide-ranging education legislation, sends it to floor

The Florida Senate's approach to a wide-ranging education proposal cleared its final committee hurdle this afternoon. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to send the measure to the floor during a contentious hearing dominated by the body's response to a school shooting in Broward County earlier this month. The panel made several key tweaks to its rewrite of HB 7055. An amendment by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, revived a teachers union certification proposal adamantly opposed by labor groups. Another, by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, would create a new education savings account program* for public-school students who struggle on reading tests. Parents could use the accounts...

How thousands of Florida parents are customizing education for children with special needs

Florida's newest private school choice program is no ordinary voucher, a new report finds. The analysis, released this week by EdChoice, found that in the first two years of the Gardiner Scholarship program, roughly four out of ten parents used the scholarships to pay for multiple educational services — not just private school tuition. The scholarship program is available to children with specific special needs. It has grown to become the nation's largest education savings account. The accounts allow parents to control the funding the state would spend to educate their child. They can spend the money on a range of education-related...

In memory of Brandon Berman

Brandon sat quietly in his wheelchair but grew increasingly agitated as his lawyer, Clint Bolick, answered rapid-fire questions from an aggressive reporter. His mother, Donna Berman, stood behind him, worrying he might erupt into a fit, or worse, a seizure. Brandon’s service dog Cody even sensed the frustration and made a noise in defense of his best friend. “Can we get him out of here?,” Brandon muttered about the reporter. Another reporter noticed his agitation. "We've been trying to get rid of him for years," he quipped. Brandon, who had autism, smiled and kept his composure. Brandon was 16 at the time. He and his mom had come to Tallahassee to attend a hearing for Faase v. Scott. Florida's statewide teachers union filed the case to...