Florida Expanding Educational Freedom Via SB 48
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Among many reasons why more and more people are moving down to the Sunshine State of Florida, programs for educational freedom ranked high on the list of reasons, enabling over 150,000 Florida K-12 students to take a portion of their K-12 education dollars to the private education provider of their choice. In 2020, Florida passed the largest expansion of private school choice in U.S. history.
Recently the Florida Senate Education Committee passed a bill, Florida Senate Bill 48 (below, in italics), introduced by State Senator Manny Diaz Jr. (R), to expand funding provided directly to students instead of systems. The committee voted along party lines to advance the bill. Senate Bill 48 needs to pass the State Senate and House and be signed by the governor to become law. The bill would merge Florida’s five existing private school choice programs in the state into two, the Family Empowerment Scholarship program and the McKay-Gardiner Scholarship program. Each of these programs would be modified into an education savings accounts. Similarity between education savings accounts and private school vouchers is that a portion of a child’s state-funded education dollars would be able to follow them to the private school of their families’ choosing. But education savings accounts further expand families’ abilities to customize their children’s educational experiences by allowing them to spend these dollars on other approved education services, including private tutoring, instructional and testing materials, special needs therapies, and home-based education. This bill also eliminates the requirement for students to switch out of a public school in order to be eligible for the Family Empowerment Scholarship and McKay programs, and homeschool students from low-income families would be eligible for the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program.
Florida Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr. joins the Educational Freedom Institute podcast to talk about the benefits of school choice and his proposal (SB 48) to fund students instead of systems, in the video published on Feb 12, 2021, “Florida’s latest proposal to fund students instead of systems“, below:
The Family Empowerment Scholarship award would increase from 95% to 97.5% of the amount of operational funding public school students receive from the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP), accounting for 3/4 of the total funding. The scholarship amount would be estimated to be about $7,600 per student in the 2020-2021 school year. The bill also caps the McKay Scholarship Program for students with special needs to 50,000 students in the first year with growth rate of 7% each following year.All students (over 300,000 students in the state) with an Individual Education Plan are currently eligible to receive McKay Scholarships.
Perhaps the evolution of our educational system toward greater choices or freedom is inevitable as technology advances and avails us much educational resources virtually.
The Florida House Majority Office shares the top five things people should know about education in the Sunshine State, in the video published on Jan 29, 2020, “5 Fast Facts About Education in Florida“, below:
CS/CS/SB 48: Educational Scholarship Programs
Educational Scholarship Programs; Requiring the Auditor General to conduct certain audits at least every 3 years instead of annually; adding certain students to those to whom district school boards must provide preferential treatment in the controlled open enrollment process; establishing the McKay-Gardiner Scholarship Program; revising the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program; repealing the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program; providing that private virtual schools meet the requirement to maintain a physical location in this state if such virtual schools maintain at least one administrative office in a specified manner, etc. APPROPRIATION: $264,687
Last Action: 3/10/2021 Senate – CS/CS by Appropriations read 1st time -SJ 225
Bill Text: Web Page | PDF
To better understand Manny Diaz Jr., please refer to the excerpt from wikipedia, in italics, below:
While serving in the legislature, Díaz sponsored legislation that would “allow more private online education providers , some from outside Florida,” to offer classes to public school students; allow students to take classes in public virtual schools in other counties, and require the Florida Department of Education “to create a catalogue of online offerings.”
Also while in the legislature, Diaz took the steps to increase privately operated, tax-payer funded charter schools in Florida, providing more access to students across Florida. The Hialeah Republican works as chief operating officer of the private non-profit Doral College, sits on the Education Committee and the K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.
The question of “How does school choice empower educational freedom?” is asked and discussed in the video published on Apr 28, 2020, “Educational Freedom in America, Corey A. DeAngelis“, below:
Senate Bill 48 certainly expands educational freedom in Florida. But there are those who oppose such expansion for fear of diminished budget for the public school system if more dollars are shifted toward the private sector. But keep in mind that Florida is simply a state with much educational choices and freedom, for state of Florida also has very strong public school system, as indicated in the video published on Feb 27, 2020, “Should I Move to Florida- How are public schools“, below:
Overall, the concept of educational freedom or school choice is growing nationwide. One of the main driving force behind this growth is reduced cost. In the video below, Reason’s Director of Education Lisa Snell indicates that more and more charter schools are cropping up and that these new educational options are effective and less costly in improving the quality of K-12 education, in “3 Reasons School Choice is Growing“, below:
Discussion about Education Freedom, uploaded by The Cato Institute, published on Oct 7, 2020, “School Choice Myths: Setting the Record Straight on Education Freedom“, below:
Dr. Corey DeAngelis talks with Patricia Levesque, CEO of Excel in Ed about Florida Virtual School’s offer to students across the state to use their online learning platform during the COVID-19 shutdown. They also discuss what the global pandemic might mean for the future of education in Florida, in the video published on Apr 8, 2020, “Florida Schools Go Digital“, below:
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker
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