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In the States: Florida Slated to Sign into Law Largest School Voucher Program in the Country

The new “In the States” feature by Kaitlyn Brennan is a weekly update to keep members informed on state-level activities impacting the education and educator preparation community.

On Thursday, lawmakers in the Florida state Legislature sent Governor Ron DeSantis a landmark education bill, FL HB1 (23R), that guarantees vouchers to any family regardless of income. The legislation comes as Republican lawmakers in Florida and the nation more broadly have led an effort to expand parental rights in education. Democrats argue that the bill is essentially a giveaway to millionaires and billionaires across the state who send their children to choice options. Currently, the vouchers are available to students whose families earn no more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $120,000 for a family of four.

As reported by Politico, an analysis from the Senate estimates that some 80,284 additional students, including 20,000 homeschoolers, will benefit from the widened voucher rules next school year, delivering new choices to scores of families across the state. Implementing the bill could cost $2.2 billion overall — including $646.5 million pulled from the state’s existing tax-credit voucher and $217.2 million in new funding, according to some budget projections. While Governor DeSantis has previously expressed reservations about opening the program to wealthy families, it is still quite likely he will sign the bill into law. Additional provisions in the legislation laxed regulations in school districts and making it even easier for teacher candidates in the state of Florida to secure a 5 year temporary certifications.

As a reminder, in October, OSEP Director Valerie Williams sent a memorandum to school districts and states affirming that IDEA includes the provision of special education and related services that meet the requirements of IDEA Part B, which includes ensuring that special education teachers and related services providers are appropriately and adequately prepared and trained.