Florida Senate Passes Legislation to Create New Scholarship Program

Today, the Florida Senate approved a historic education bill that would create a new scholarship program for low income and working class families. The Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) will be funded through the state’s public school finance program, as is the state’s existing McKay Scholarship program for special needs children. The FES will complement the existing tax credit scholarship program for low income children, which funds scholarships through tax credits given to Florida corporations.

Last fall, the parents of over 170,000 children started applications for the 100,000 available scholarships under the tax credit program before Step Up For Students, the non-profit that administers 99% of the program, cut off the application process. Step Up allowed the parents of roughly 13,000 children who would not get scholarships to complete the rigorous application process, so that it would have a documented waitlist. During his campaign for Governor and early in his first term, Governor Ron DeSantis made the creation of a new program to help meet the incredible demand a top priority of his first legislative session.

Statement from John Kirtley, Chairman of Step Up for Students and Vice Chair of the American Federation for Children:

“This is a monumental achievement by the Florida Senate. I want to thank Senate President Bill Galvano, K12 Chair Manny Diaz, and K12 Appropriations Chair Kelly Stargel for their incredible leadership in getting this bill through their chamber. It will give thousands of low income and working class parents the power to choose the best learning environment for their children.”

The FES would provide scholarships to a student equal to 95% of the state contribution to school districts. Families with incomes of 300% of the Federal Poverty Level would be eligible, with families making 185% of that level given priority. There would be 18,000 scholarships authorized in the first year, with an annual growth rate of approximately 7,000 scholarships per year.

The bill now moves on to the Florida House Of Representatives, where it is expected to pass.