AFC 41 Days of School Choice Day 2: Parents flocking to personal learning scholarships in Florida

Washington, D.C. (August 5, 2014) – The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, continues its 41 Days of School Choice initiative highlighting educational choice programs across the country. Today, we take a look at Florida’s newest educational choice offering, the Personal Learning Scholarship Account (PLSA) Program.
Although the program is being targeted by a teacher union lawsuit, since the application period opened July 18 more than 1,900 parents have started applications for Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts. This innovative form of choice offers K-12 students with significant special needs including autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy the ability to customize their education so it is tailored to their specific needs.
The PLSA program is the second of its kind in the nation, following Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. Parents can use accounts to pay for a wide array of educational options, including private school, therapists, specialists, curricula and materials, even contributions to a prepaid college fund. Step Up For Students is among the organizations authorized to administer it. During this year’s session, the Florida Legislature set aside $18.4 million for the accounts in its inaugural year, enough to serve an estimated 1,800 students.
Gov. Rick Scott signed the PLSA program into law over the objections of the Florida Education Association, which filed suit July 16 to challenge the process by which the bill, which included numerous education issues, was passed. Last week, six parents of students with special needs filed a motion to intervene. They are represented by Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute.
Despite the litigation, parents have not been hesitant to apply for the program and truly recognize the difference that a PLSA can have in their child’s life. One parent told a newspaper the new program was “like winning the Lotto.” Another called it a “phenomenal opportunity.” Yet another said it would be “life-changing for my family and potentially thousands of others in our state.”
“This scholarship will make all the difference in the world,” said Dorothy Famiano of Brooksville, who has two children who are eligible – Nicholas, who has Spina bifida, and Danielle, who has autism.
PLSAs are “an enormous vote in favor of truly providing an individualized education for children who have unique abilities in the state of Florida,” said Christine Bancalari, co-founder of the Down Syndrome Foundation of Florida. “Allowing parents to customize their children’s education to their individual needs is a win-win for all.”
For more information about PLSAs, visit www.stepupforstudents.org.
Throughout the 41 Days of School Choice campaign, the American Federation for Children will be promoting programs using the hashtag “#41Days”.

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