Education savings accounts

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...

Arizona is the next Nevada, so who is the next Arizona?

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona signed a universal education savings account (ESA) bill into law Thursday night, making Arizona the second state to pass a universal ESA program. However, Arizona may be the first state to actually implement a universal ESA as the Nevada Supreme Court struck down the Silver State's funding mechanism last year. ESAs in the Grand Canyon State have already survived a constitutional challenge. Although the program is theoretically universal, with 1.1 million students in the state eligible, it will allow only limited growth until it reaches a cap of 30,000 students by 2022. Last year, redefinED asked education experts to speculate...

Fla. House panel backs private school choice bill after spending changes

Private school choice legislation received bipartisan backing this afternoon from a Florida House panel. As approved by the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, HB 15 would increase the funding each student receives through the state's tax credit scholarship program. Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer the program. The committee removed from the bill provisions that would have expanded the conditions that would allow students to qualify for Gardiner scholarships and tripled funding for the program, which provides education savings accounts for children with special needs. (Step Up also helps administer Gardiner scholarships.) Legislators also removed a provision that would...

Bill would boost Florida special needs scholarships

The nation's largest education savings account program would triple in size under a bill filed yesterday by the Florida Senate's lead education budget writer. SB 902 by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would boost funding for Gardiner Scholarships from $71.2 million to $200 million. It would also expand the list of conditions that allow students to qualify for the scholarships, which are available to children with specific special needs. The bill would make scholarships available to hearing and visually impaired students, those with traumatic brain injuries and those who are hospital or homebound. The scholarships are designed to be worth approximately 90 percent...
Bishop Noonan

School choice programs adapt to help young adults with special needs

When people learn Robert Breske is the father of a teenager with Down syndrome, they sometimes tell him they're sorry. That isn't what he wants to hear. He'll tell them children like his soon-to-be-15-year-old son, Bobby, have changed his life — and the world — for the better. "They are closest things to God," he said during an event earlier this month at Orlando's Morning Star Catholic School, a faith-based special education center Bobby attends. "They are that way all through their whole lives." In recent decades, advances in medicine and early intervention programs have made their lives richer and longer than...

The next Nevada? These are the states to watch for education savings accounts

Nevada’s universal education savings accounts were the most far-reaching educational choice program ever created, but they suffered a setback earlier this year when the state Supreme Court ruled the funding mechanism unconstitutional. November elections swept pro-school choice Republicans from power. Potential legislative fixes a likely bargaining chip between Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval, meaning it's an open question whether the program will ever get funded. While Nevada's fate remains uncertian, educational choice advocates are looking to other states to follow up with legislation that might match its scope and ambition. There's no question education savings accounts will be on the agenda in state...