Florida Becomes Sixth State with Universal Education Freedom
Florida has reclaimed its crown as the nation’s leader in education freedom after Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1 into law this week. The bill, led by Speaker Paul Renner, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, Representative Kaylee Tuck, and Senator Corey Simon, expands the state’s Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) Program to every student and family in Florida.
Florida has long been a national leader in education freedom, boasting massive programs like the Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship Program and the FES program, each of which distributes north of $500,000,000 worth of scholarships on an annual basis. However, both of these programs were restricted to low-income students, and their funds could only be used for tuition at a private school. Once the changes in HB 1 take effect, however, families will be able to use these scholarships on a wider variety of educational expenses like textbooks, testing fees, specialized therapies for students with special needs, tutoring services, and more.
The bill marks the largest expansion of education freedom anywhere in the country, with nearly 3.25 million students now eligible to participate. Florida joins Iowa, Utah, and Arkansas as the fourth state this year to enact legislation creating a universally available education freedom program. These four states join West Virginia and Arizona, which also passed such programs in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
Momentum to reimagine American education has been growing steadily over the past two years, with 2023 representing an inflection point. States are not just looking to create new programs but to create new programs that are available to every student and family regardless of their income, disability status, geography, or any other factor. With Governor DeSantis signing HB 1 into law, 2023 continues to be a record-breaking year in American education in which education dollars no longer go directly to school systems but instead follow students to whatever educational environment is best for them.