Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed 2023 HB 1, which included sweeping changes and massive expansion of Florida School Choice programs.
The previous financial eligibility restrictions for school choice programs in Florida have now been lifted with the passage of HB 1. Any eligible student that is enrolled in K-12 education can now participate in the various school choice options available.
The enrollment cap and exemptions have been removed for students who can enroll in the Florida Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-EO). There is however a cap of 20,000 in the 2023-2024 school year for students who are not full time enrolled in either a public or private school, along with those who are not a Home Education Program students. The scholarship cap will then increase to 40,000 after the 2023-2024 school year. The annual adjustment for the FES-EO will now be at three percent, up from one percent. The increase is to help alleviate high demand and wait lists.
Students who are below the 185 percent poverty level will still get priority in awards for school choice options. A second priority scholarship will be awarded to students who are with 185 to 400 percent of the Federal poverty level.
Governor DeSantis said “Florida is number one when it comes to education freedom and education choice, and today’s bill signing represents the largest expansion of education choice in the history of these United States. When you combine private scholarships, charter schools, and district choice programs, Florida already has 1.3 million students attending a school of their choosing.”
The Governor said current School Choice programs have been key in increasing student achievement in Florida over the past 20 years.
DeSantis also praised the support of the Florida State Legislature for HB 1 along with Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) and Florida House Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) support of the legislation.
Under the legislation signed into law, the Office of K-12 School Choice will be required to develop an online portal to help parents pick the best educational choice for their child.
Florida State Representative Kaylee Tuck (R-Sebring) said “we are empowering every family and every child to achieve their educational goals. HB 1 is a testament to the good work the Florida Legislature can accomplish when all sides come together.”
Tuck said she was honored to have “carried the bill” in the Florida State House. She said the bill was created with input from parents, students, educators and her fellow Florida Legislators in the State House and State Senate.
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz said the signing of HB 1 was a “monumental day in Florida History” and thanked the Governor and State Legislature for allowing the State of Florida to be the “undisputed leader in school choice.” He said Florida continues to be the “undisputed leader in school choice. Florida will always make good on our promise to ensure every single child has access to a world- class education.”
Regulations have been removed regarding entry into the teaching profession. The general education requirement will now be waived for teachers who have been teaching for three years in a classroom and have an effective or highly effective rating for three years in a row.
Temporary teaching certificates are now increased to five years from the previous three years.
HB 1 also made a new requirement for the Florida State Board of Education to provide recommendations for addition revisions to Florida’s Education code. The requirement was made to help reduce more of the bureaucracy in the teaching profession.
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