by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Senate leaders both proposed plans to significantly grow Florida’s school choice programs — already the nation’s largest — before the 2019 legislative session began on March 5.
Two weeks into the 60-day session, the House has crafted its own proposed expansion, doubling down – literally – on the governor’s and Senate’s plans by creating 28,000 new scholarships that, eventually, would be available to students with family incomes of more than $96,000 a year.
The House Education Committee has approved a committee bill, PCB EDC 19-01, that would create a new Family Empowerment Scholarship voucher program in a 15-2 vote. …
… Right now, 100,512 Florida students receive scholarships to attend 1,807 private schools across the state, but those vouchers are paid for through the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC).
The FTC was created in 2001 and allows taxpayers to make private, voluntary contributions to non-profit scholarship-funding organizations (SFOs) that can then be awarded as scholarships to eligible students for private school tuition. It is mostly funded through corporate donations.
The FTC scholarship program – capped at $873 million this year – is administered by Step Up For Students, a non-profit SFO created by the Legislature.
According to Step Up, two-thirds of the students who received scholarships last year – more than 70,000 – are African American or Hispanic with an average household income of $25,756. The federal poverty guideline is $25,750 for a family of four.