DeSantis Signs School Voucher Bill 03/28 06:11
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed
legislation to allow all K-12 students in the state to get taxpayer-funded
vouchers for private schools, continuing a focus on education as he prepares to
launch an expected Republican presidential campaign.
The law expands Florida's voucher system by eliminating income eligibility
limits on the program. Democrats and critics have said the legislation has an
unclear price tag, amounts to a subsidy for the wealthy and could harm public
The so-called school choice movement first gained traction in the U.S. in
the 1990s but has seen a renewed push after coronavirus pandemic school
closures and ongoing cultural debates over education around gender and race.
DeSantis has made eliminating what he describes as liberal ideology in
education a focal point of his conservative agenda, harnessing unease among
some Republicans regarding what they view as inappropriate subjects being
taught in schools.
"There will be a preference for low and middle income families but at the
end of the day we fundamentally believe that the money should follow the
student and it should be directed based on what the parent thinks is the most
appropriate education program for their child," DeSantis said at a bill signing
ceremony at a Catholic school in Miami.
The bill was a priority of Republican House Speaker Paul Renner and it was
expedited through the GOP-dominated state Legislature. On Monday, Renner said
the new law will allow parents to send children to alternative schools where
their values and faith are respected, referencing "some of the craziness that
happens in our K-12 schools."
Florida began its voucher program to help parents pay for private schools
more than two decades ago under Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and has passed several
laws to expand it over the next three Republican administrations. DeSantis two
years ago signed a bill raising income levels to receive vouchers to 375% of
the federal poverty level. DeSantis on Monday said 1.3 million children in
Florida attend a school chosen by parents.
About a dozen other states have or are considering so-called school choice
bills this year. A handful of states make vouchers available to all students,
regardless of family income levels.
Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association teachers union,
said the law will divert public money to private schools.
It "will drain billions of taxpayer dollars away from the neighborhood
public schools that nearly 90 percent of Florida's parents trust to educate
their children," he said in a statement. "Additionally, this new law will hand
over that public money to unaccountable, corporate-run private schools."
Democrats have repeatedly raised questions about the program's potential
A House analysis of the bill estimated it could cost more than $209 million,
but a Senate analysis put the potential figure at more than $646 million. The
independent Florida Policy Institute calculated that the program may cost $4
House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell on Monday said "cost and
accountability are grave concerns."
"I am personally concerned, and I think many in our caucus share this
sentiment, that this could be devastating to Florida's public schools," she