Governor DeSantis Signs Legislation to Create New Scholarship Program

Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a historic education bill that will 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.

The Governor signed the bill at William A. Kirlew Junior Academy in Miami Gardens, a pillar in the Haitian American community where almost every student attends on the tax credit scholarship. Earlier in the day Governor DeSantis attended celebrations at Potters House Christian Academy in Jacksonville and Mt. Moriah Christian Academy in South St. Petersburg—two schools in low income neighborhoods serving scholarship children.

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

“I want to thank Governor DeSantis for his commitment to parental choice in education. He is the strongest possible advocate for our families. I also want to thank Senator Manny Diaz, Representative Jennifer Sullivan, Speaker Jose Oliva and Senate President Bill Galvano for their leadership in passing this bill. I also want to thank the six brave Democrats who stood up for their constituents to give them the power they so desperately desire.”

Details:

Last fall, the parents of more than 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.

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.