January 11, 2024

Broad Coalition Asks Florida Legislators to Give Families Freedom to Use Education Savings Accounts for Full-time Private and Religious Virtual Schools

What’s a Rich Text element?

What’s a Rich Text element?

What’s a Rich Text element?

What’s a Rich Text element?

What’s a Rich Text element?
What’s a Rich Text element?

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A coalition of leading pro-school choice organizations in Florida and across the U.S. sent a letter today to Florida legislators asking them to support “small, but necessary” changes to Florida’s education savings account (ESA) law to ensure families can use scholarship funds for private and religious full-time virtual schools.

The organizations applauded Florida legislators for the passage of HB1 in 2023 which expanded the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) to all K-12 students for a diverse range of education options, including religious schools, tutoring, home education, and other education services. However, the letter states, “the original construction of HB1, perhaps inadvertently, restricts families from using FES funds for full-time private online or blended schools (both religious and nonsectarian).”

Florida Parents for School Options was joined on the letter by several notable state and national pro school choice organizations including Americans for Prosperity, Teach Florida, Heritage Action, Foundation for Florida’s Future, EdChoice, American Federation for Children and the James Madison Institute.

Shortly after HB1 was enacted, the error and its impact on Florida’s families and religious schools was recognized, prompting several lawmakers to pledge to fix the language in 2024 legislative session.

Florida Parents for School Options notes that this session’s HB1403 as introduced does not include the amendments needed to allow for full-time private and religious virtual schools.

The letter highlights that Florida has long been a national school choice leader, including providing families online school choice options. Currently, tens of thousands of students are enrolled in full-time public virtual schools across the state. Correcting the issues in Florida’s ESA law would give families equal opportunity to use scholarship funds for private and religious virtual schools – an option that is freely available to families in other states with universal ESAs. It would also give private religious schools the flexibility to offer online programs to expand their reach to students.

The letter concludes, “We are strong supporters of school choice and applaud Florida lawmakers for enacting HB1 – a landmark law that greatly expanded educational freedom to Floridians. We ask for your support to make the small, but necessary changes to HB1403 this session, that will guarantee Florida’s families have full access to all education options, including full-time private and religious virtual schools.”

Click here to view the letter

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