Sara Clements Details School Choice Proposals in Florida Legislature

April 20, 2021

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There are currently two school choice proposals making their way through the Florida legislature – House Bill 7045 and Senate Bill 48. McGuireWoods Consulting vice president, Sara Clements, discussed the differences in the bills and the impact they would have in the state in a April 19 article for Florida Politics.

Both bills aim to expand school choice by making changes to the various scholarship programs in the state.

“The Senate proposal would collapse five scholarship programs into two state-funded Education Savings Account (ESA) — the McKay-Gardiner Scholarship and the Family Empowerment Scholarship. The House bill maintains the Florida Tax Credit and Hope Scholarships, repeals Gardiner and McKay, and transitions those special needs students into the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES), which will act as an ESA for that population only,” Clements said. “Essentially, the House bill keeps more of the current structures in place while the Senate is moving all of these programs into the FEFP and creating a lot more flexibility for parents. Overall, the Senate proposal is a more dramatic change.”

Florida has continuously expanded educational options over the last 25 years, and both bills look to change how the scholarship programs are funded and how families can spend the money.

“An educational savings account, or ESA, has far more flexibility than a traditional scholarship or voucher because it allows parents to customize their child’s education through things like curriculum, digital devices, and tutoring, rather than simply paying for school tuition,” Clements said.

She added, “We have never seen a significant drop in public school enrollment in any given year, which is often the prediction made by critics when choice programs are created or expanded. Some of these changes, like how the scholarships are funded, are sizable policy shifts in Tallahassee. However, where parents will see the biggest impact is the greater control they will have in their child’s education.”

Both bills are ready for floor votes in their respective chambers.