Florida Governor Expands Private School Vouchers with New Bill FHB1


Anthony Abrahantes

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has recently passed a bill reducing the requirements for private school financial aid.

For students and families across Florida, the topic of education funding has returned to the spotlight as Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new bill that expands eligibility for private school vouchers. The new legislation, proposed on Jan. 19, 2023, has made its way through the legislative process and was passed on March 27. The controversial bill, which has garnered both support and criticism from education advocates, is poised to have a significant impact on the educational opportunities available to Florida students.

“I believe that the new voucher program will allow more families to choose the best educational option for their children, regardless of their financial situation. As students, we need financial aid to prove opportunities for our future, and I would say this is a step towards creating a more fair education system in Florida,” junior Eduardo Meonez said.

House Bill 1, also known as the “Universal School Choice” bill, increases the number of families who are eligible to receive vouchers to attend private schools. The new law, which takes effect on July 1, 2023, eliminates income limitations for families by increasing the amount of money available for vouchers. The initiative also is believed to make it easier for students to transfer schools, allowing families to choose what they believe is the greatest educational option for their children.

“This bill kind of destroys the whole concept of public schools. Although it does give the family more autonomy in where they can go, it does not prioritize public school teaching, which is detrimental to the students who attend the schools as it could lessen their education,” freshman Beatrice Stampino-Strain said.

On the other hand, opponents of the bill argue that it diverts funding from public schools and allows private schools to discriminate against certain students. By handing public money to privately run institutions, the new act risks empowering the wealthy at the expense of public schools that educate nearly 88.2% of Florida’s youth. They worry that the program will lead to further privatization of education.

“Since students will have more of an option for private schools, it definitely can increase the competitiveness within public schools. But ultimately, if more private schools are being funded or more private schools have a bigger student population than public schools, then public education may be disregarded by the state government which can ultimately cause public school students to lose resources and not have as many opportunities,” senior Isabella Morales said.

Democrats criticized DeSantis for jeopardizing the school system that millions of Floridians already depend on, arguing that it was irresponsible for redirecting tax-payers’ money to private institutions that do not have regulated standards for educators and academics.

Democrats in the House have also exercised their concerns about the bill’s potential cost. Per a House assessment of the legislation, the projected expenditure may exceed $209 million, while a Senate appraisal indicates a potential cost of over $646 million. 

“As a student in the Florida public school system, I am disappointed to see the passing of this bill. Taking funding away from public schools to give to private institutions is not the answer to improving education in our state. We need to invest in and improve public schools for all students, not just a select few,” sophomore Daniela Sanchez said.

There are varying perspectives on DeSantis’ newest legislation, and time will tell how it will change the current process of voucher applications. Nevertheless, this new law will come into effect with the introduction of the new school year, changing the financial aid system for years to come.