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Florida House approves bill expanding taxpayer-funded school vouchers to all

Republicans push to give parents choice to attend private schools, concerning many Democrats
Florida Capitol building
Posted at 4:02 PM, Mar 17, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida is one step closer to offering parents the choice of sending their children to private schools.

After hours of debate, the Florida House gave final approval Friday to legislation that would make every Florida student eligible for taxpayer-funded school vouchers.

House members voted 83-27, with nine members abstaining.

The Republican-backed HB 1 would give parents the choice to receive a voucher for their child to be used for private school tuition.

HB 1 would open vouchers for private schools to all Florida students, not just low-income families.

They will still have priority, but under the bill, anyone can apply, even parents of homeschoolers, who can get money for education supplies or tutors.

A handful of Democrats also voted in favor of the bill.

Currently, the school voucher program is only available to low-income families or children with disabilities.

"The goal is to deliver education in a much different way than the one-size-fits-all model that we all knew growing up," House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, said. "The Florida model factors in the unique learning needs of every child to deliver education by empowering parents and students to choose the best way to achieve their educational goals, regardless of ZIP code, race or income."

But opponents of the bill, mostly Democrats, argue that it will divert money from public schools and subsidize private education, essentially helping the rich get richer, and that the price tag is too high.

State analysis puts new costs between $210-220 million, but third-party nonprofits estimate it will be more in the billions.

The bill will now need the backing of the Senate to reach Gov. Ron DeSantis. The upper chamber's vote on SB 202 is expected in the coming weeks.

Although DeSantis has had some reservations about giving vouchers to those who can already afford private schools, he said it wasn't a deal breaker.