Gov. DeSantis signs measure offering swimming lesson vouchers

Senate sponsor Travis Hutson said the legislation would 'save lives.' He speaks from personal experience.

It will soon be easier for Florida children to learn how to swim, after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation to subsidize lessons via vouchers.

SB 544 is a passion of sponsoring Sen. Travis Hutson of St. Johns County for good reason: His nephew once fell into a pool, but due to swimming lessons, was able to avert tragedy by knowing to flip over and float.

“If he had not gone through the program, who knows what would have happened?” Hutson told Florida Politics’ Gabrielle Russon earlier this year. “Granted, I was fortunate enough to put my kids through the program. Some of those in Florida are less fortunate, and they need the help to save lives.”

SB 544 compels the Department of Health (DOH) to create a Swimming Lesson Voucher Program to “increase water safety in this state by offering vouchers for swimming lessons at no cost to families with an income of no more than 200% of the federal poverty level who have one or more children four years of age or younger,” the measure stipulates.

Each county would be required to have one vendor.

It’s unclear what the program will ultimately cost the DOH.

One committee analysis advanced a possibility of a “significant negative (fiscal) impact due to the bill’s provisions requiring the DOH to develop an application review process and maintain a network of swimming lesson vendors in each county.

“It is unclear if these costs can be absorbed within current resources,” the analysis warns.

What’s clear to the Legislature and the Governor, however, is that when it comes to aquatic safety for Florida’s most vulnerable residents, the price is worth it.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • MH/Duuuval

    April 16, 2024 at 8:59 am

    Every young person in Florida should have the opportunity to learn how to swim. Let’s see how this program plays out.

    Where are the pools?

    • rick whitaker

      April 16, 2024 at 9:47 am

      MH, better than paying the high prices that the YMCA charged me for my kids. i HATE christianity, so i found it hard giving money to the catholic greed barons.

    • Tom

      April 16, 2024 at 10:16 am

      Climate change – swimming is the new walking apparently.

    • Geronimo Antonio Schmidt

      April 16, 2024 at 10:42 am

      In Florida, the ocean is near by…or a lake (teach alligator avoidance as well)

  • Sink or swim

    April 16, 2024 at 10:06 am

    Great for safety and mental health. Too bad the fascist state is molding their minds to a revisionist history that fits his white Christian evangelical extremism . Force births but don’t feed them or let them vote. Take away women’s healthcare rights.

    • rick whitaker

      April 16, 2024 at 10:12 am

      SINK, christians and muslims both swim the same way and nobody seems to care, but the minds of the two mentioned groups, are taught two totally different lies. so kids growing up are expected to pick which lie they want to believe in. we need strong public schools with no religion anywhere around to infect the kids with religious poison.

  • Geronimo Antonio Schmidt

    April 16, 2024 at 10:39 am

    My swimming lesson was to be thrown in the ocean by my own father. He was not going to let me drown , but I managed to stay afloat.
    If you live by the water, you should learn how to swim, but taxpayers should NOT be charge for that. Whatever happened to the idea of small government and if it is not in the constitution , gov is not responsible for it?
    Anyway, gun violence is the 2nd cause of death among children. If you want to protect children, how about reducing the amount of guns out there?

    • rick whitaker

      April 16, 2024 at 11:07 am

      GERONIMO, maga needs every gun stripped from their antigovernment hands. maga cultist are too unstable to be allowed to possess a gun. get real.

    • MH/Duuuval

      April 16, 2024 at 12:57 pm

      It should be possible to have both, but swimming lessons in Florida is easier to grasp for MAGA initiates. In Duval many high schools already have pools but, unfortunately, they seem to be monopolized by the swim and diving teams.

      • rick whitaker

        April 16, 2024 at 1:14 pm

        MH, your comment about the monopolization by competitive sports is a christian thing. to a christian, sports is simulated war, so they are more than happy with that. educating people simply on how to swim, is not a christian enough thing because christians demand competition above all else. this is called christian war preparation thinking. christianity does not ALLOW any competing philosophies, never has.

  • Ocean Joe

    April 16, 2024 at 11:05 am

    A good idea approved by the king of stupid ones.

    • Marvin M.

      April 16, 2024 at 5:35 pm

      I thought it was not a bad idea either (Appears to have been Senator Travis Hutson’s idea) …
      But then I went and read the actual bill. The link is in the article, SB 544, near the beginning.

      First off, it’s only for kids 4 years of age or younger. If your kid is five or older, you get nothing.

      Now, there can still be some value here, but it does limit the number of people who will be able to take advantage of this program.

      Which leads us to, these vouchers are only available to families making no more than 200% of the Federal Poverty Limit. Since I just did my taxes, I had zero trouble figuring out what those limits were for 2023. Yes, they will increase for 2024 and beyond, but there below gives you a good idea of how little a family can make in order to take advantage of this program (200% calculated in the below).
      3 person family with at least one 4 or less year old – $46,060/year
      4 person family with at least one 4 or less year old – $55,500/year
      5 person family with at least one 4 or less year old – $64,940/year

      Additionally, it’s not clear what metric they will use to determine “income” – line 9 of form 1040 “Total Income”, or line 11 “Adjusted Gross Income”? Could make a huge difference in how many people will be able to be eligible.

      But I guess that will have to be left up to the Department of Health to figure out. Another bill/law that Tallahassee punts to counties, municipalities, departments, to figure out how to, y’know, actually do it, make it happen. If it works, Ron will take the credit, having done none of the work. And if it’s a disaster, he’ll blame the Department of Health.

      • MH/Duuuval

        April 16, 2024 at 8:22 pm

        The goal of MAGA Tallahassee is to have entitlement programs but set the bar so high and the paperwork so onerous and the bureaucrats so few that inevitably many get washed out of the process — like basic military training except without free meals.

      • For Sham For Sham

        April 16, 2024 at 11:33 pm

        Well I’m glad at least it’s not another shameful handout to people who don’t need it, but it’s also stupid for the state to do this. There are community organizations (like United Way programs that can be administered through YMCA) that already handle this very efficiently and already have programs. IF they wanted to actually DO something they could just issue a state backed grant and let things be handled at the community level AS THEY ALREADY ARE. It’s just sham optics. Any time these jokers need to gather some steam it’s all about “save the children” from (insert boogeyman) except when it actually counts, like health care, education, hunger, guns killing kids, you know, stuff like that.

        • rick whitaker

          April 16, 2024 at 11:51 pm

          SHAM, the ymca charged me a huge amount of money to teach my kids. we had to let it go before they learned because it was so expensive. that was long ago when i was young and needy with kids to raise. don’t count on churches and the community to help. that help is spotty. i do agree that desantis does tricks for treats.

  • Dont Say FLA

    April 16, 2024 at 12:37 pm

    Do people who can afford pools in their back yards really need government hand outs for swimming lessons for their children? I guess maybe they can’t afford the lessons because the pool payments are so expensive and then there’s the insurance.

    • Nope

      April 16, 2024 at 2:37 pm

      I have family who are millionaires and they are still receiving vouchers to send their kid to private school. Just took a vacation to Europe with that money. They also have a pool and now will be receiving voucher to teach their 13 year old kid how to swim–who learned in their pool when he was 2. No, this is just more MAGA handout bs. The local church down the street from us teaches free swimming in their heated pool to anyone who wants it every year and all of the public high school pools have open public access all summer and you can sign up for lessons. It is baked into the budget for the city already paid for by tax dollars. What a complete sham. Everything TH proposes is welfare for the rich and gobbled up like pudding by RD.

      • MH/Duuuval

        April 16, 2024 at 3:13 pm

        Glad to hear your city or county is well managed. In Duval during the final year of Lenny Curry’s reign, about half of city pools never opened — either maintenance problems or staffing shortages or both — and remained closed for the summer. The new mayor Deegan has made this a priority and did a turnaround of pools in her first summer. But, it makes you wonder what Lenny was up to — it’s not like he was new to the job or didn’t know summer would come around as it does every year.

Comments are closed.


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