School choice advocates celebrate ‘Empowerment Scholarships’
State Sen. Manny Diaz stands alongside First Lady Casey DeSantis at ceremony for SB 7070 signing.

New program will provide school vouchers to more students.

After Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a massive school choice expansion in Florida on Thursday, voices involved in various levels of school reform chimed in.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos celebrated the action by Florida’s Governor.

“Congratulations to @GovRonDeSantis on signing a historic #EducationFreedom bill in Florida today,” she tweeted. “Florida continues to lead the country in providing students the opportunity to find the right fit for their education!”

Former Gov. Jeb Bush celebrated the signing.

“Governor DeSantis today cemented his commitment to Florida’s hard-working families and their children and furthered the state’s unparalleled legacy of educational freedom,” he said in a statement.

“The new Family Empowerment Scholarships will ensure many more students, especially those with limited options, can access the quality education they deserve. I’m proud of Florida for taking these steps and applaud Governor DeSantis, Senate President Galvano and House Speaker Oliva for their leadership and courage in making the boldest education idea in the nation a reality.”

Senate President Bill Galvano, who helped shepherd the bill to passage this year, thanked the Governor for signing it into law.

“Our goal this session was to advance a series of policy enhancements and budget investments that balance our commitment to parent-directed educational choice while elevating the traditional public schools that have been the backbone of our education system for decades,” Galvano said.

“I am grateful to Governor DeSantis for his support of this effort.The Governor is a strong advocate for empowering all Florida parents to choose the educational environment that is best for their children. This comprehensive legislation expands choice options for Florida parents, while at the same time supporting teachers and principals in our neighborhood public schools.”

State Sen. Manny Diaz, the Miami Republican who sponsored the legislation, attended a signing ceremony in Miami.

“Thank you @RonDeSantisFL for signing SB 7070 into law in our home county!,” he tweeted. “The Family Empowerment Scholarship will provide quality choices for all students regardless of Zip-Code or Socio-economic status!”

The timing comes at an opportune moment, according to the redfinED blog hosted by Step Up For Children.

“The 18-year-old Florida Tax Credit Scholarship this year served more than 100,000 students. But corporate contributions that receive dollar-for-dollar state tax credits slowed this year, producing a waiting list of 13,000 students,” the site’s staff wrote.

“Unlike the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, the new program would be funded with tax dollars through the Florida Education Finance Program, the operational formula for traditional public schools.”

Skyler Zander, Florida director for Americans For Prosperity, also attended the signing.

“Enjoyed joining @GovRonDeSantis First Lady @FLCaseyDeSantis and Florida’s education leaders this morning to celebrate the Governor and Legislatures hard work on creating the Florida Family Empowerment Scholarship,” he tweeted. “Thank you Governor, @SenMannyDiazJr, & Jennifer Sullivan.”

And School Choice Movement leaders listed the legislation as a priority this year.

“During a week of gratitude for our teachers, this is a special day to recognize that high-quality education happens in a variety of classroom settings,” reads a statement from the group. “We hope that w/ the addition of the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program, FL student success will continue on its path upward.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Jan

    May 11, 2019 at 10:37 am

    Many things concern me about this new tax give a way to private schools, which are mostly religious schools, including the fact that once a family is eligible based on family income they continue to remain eligible even if/when their income goes up.

    Here is what the bill says: “A student who initially receives a scholarship based on
    eligibility under subparagraph (b)2. remains eligible to
    participate until the student graduates from high school or
    attains the age of 21 years, whichever occurs first, regardless
    of the student’s household income level.” (Lines 1086-1089 of S.B. 7070)

    Also, some parents may be disappointed when they find out the amount of money in the scholarship may not cover the entire cost of the private school tuition, transportation, books, fees, uniforms. Other parents may find their children do not meet the admission requirements of the preferred private school or that the private school offers no remediation for students with reading problems or who are below grade level academically.

    Finally, parents with special needs students are not likely to find a private school which has programs for students with learning disabilities, emotional disorders, ADHD, autism spectrum, ESOL, and physical impairments (vision, hearing) like the public schools are required to have.

    To be sure, some students thrive in private schools but parents should be aware it is not a magic solution. As a public school guidance counselor for 35 years, I have seen many students return to the public school setting because the privates were not meeting their needs.

    • Jan

      May 11, 2019 at 11:20 am

      Forgive the correction. The quote I mentioned in my post above is from the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship in the same bill, lines 1086-1089. My mistake.

      Here is the quote from the Family Empowerment Scholarship lines 720-726–virtually the same thing.
      “Priority shall be given to students whose household income
      720 levels do not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty level or
      721 who are in foster care or out-of-home care. A student who
      722 initially receives a scholarship based on eligibility under
      723 subparagraph 2. remains eligible to participate until the
      724 student graduates from high school or attains the age of 21
      725 years, whichever occurs first, REGARDLESS OF THE STUDENT’S

Comments are closed.


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