The Florida Senate and House recently introduced bills to expand school choice options. The Corporate Tax Scholarship Program which currently provides low income students with a tuition scholarship has reached capacity, and there are currently around 15,000 students on a waiting list.

The House Education Committee filed a bill that would eliminate the waiting list and help about 28,000 students in the 2019-2020 school year.The House bill is known as the Family Empowerment Scholarship It would help pay for private school tuition and fees. Any unused funds would be able to be rolled over to the next school year.The Senate version would be capped at 15,000 students in its first year.

Both proposals would be funded through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP). The Senate bill would be administered by the state Department of Education, the House bill would be managed by eligible Scholarship Funding Organizations such as Step Up For Students.

The House version of the legislation has the value of the scholarships at 97 percent of the district average per-student funding in the FEFP. Eligibility would be limited to students whose household income levels do not exceed 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($77,250 for a family of four) in the first year. That amount would increase by 25 percent each following year until it reaches 375 percent of the federal poverty level ($96,563 for household of four).

Students would be eligible if they spent the previous school year in public school for grades 1 through 12, if they are entering the private school for kindergarten, or received a scholarship from an eligible Scholarship Funding Organization the previous year. Once families are found eligible, they would not have to re-verify their income every year.

The Senate bill has the value of the scholarships at 95 percent of the district average per-student funding in the FEFP. Like the current Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, eligibility would be limited to students whose household income levels do not exceed 260 percent of the federal poverty level ($66,950 for a family of four).

Agudath Israel of Florida is working closely with its coalition partners to promote and encourage legislators to work together to pass the most robust expansion of school choice option for families.

(adapted from recent RedefineEd articles)