A measure increasing access to school voucher money is now ready for the Governor’s signature.
The Legislature shipped that bill (HB 7067) to Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday. House Education Chairwoman Jennifer Sullivan sponsored the legislation.
The measure raises income caps, allowing more families to apply for vouchers. It also expands the maximum number of vouchers available.
For the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES), households making up to 300% of the federal poverty level would be able to apply. If there’s still money left and more than 5% of scholarships are available, students whose families earn up to 325% of the federal poverty level would be eligible.
The maximum number of students allowed to participate in the FES scholarship program would also increase annually by 1% of the state’s total public school student enrollment, up from the 0.25% currently allowed.
Such a change would add nearly 29,000 more scholarships for the 2020-21 school year.
Democrats were skeptical of the expansion, arguing the state should focus on shipping money to public schools. On Wednesday, the Legislature also sent DeSantis a bill which would help increase teacher pay at public and charter schools.
Republican Sen. Tom Lee also objected to a portion of the bill, arguing public schools consistently face more stringent regulation than private schools.
Prior to the Senate approving the bill, Lee pushed an amendment that would have required private schools to report more information to the Department of Education, such as the number of students enrolled, the share of voucher recipients and how many students have withdrawn, along with the reasoning.
That amendment failed.
Senate Education Chair Manny Diaz, who supported the Senate version of the bill (SB 1220), praised the expansion upon its passage.
“Empowering parents and students of all economic backgrounds is an essential component to ensuring high-quality education for all our children,” Diaz said.
“The expansion of the Family Empowerment Scholarship program was a labor of love that I am honored to have carried across the finish line. Our parents deserve it. Our students deserve it. And the future of our great state deserves it.”