Universal choice plan passes Florida Senate panel

Florida’s Senate Education Committee just passed a plan that would make a voucher or other money for educational expenses universally accessible to Florida families. Despite its “vouchers-for-all” moniker, the proposed bill creating Education Savings Accounts passed with the support of one Democrat, Bill Montford, who also serves as the chief executive of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. 

“I’ve got some serious concerns,” Montford said. “But this concept is certainly worth exploring.”

The support is all the more notable considering Gov. Rick Scott himself backed away from the idea before the state’s legislative session began last month. Scott’s education transition team recommended the savings account, inspired by the Goldwater Institute, and proposed funding each participating family with an amount equal to 90 percent of what the state would pay per pupil in public schools. A torrent of criticism followed, even from those who favored vouchers in various designs, including from Cato Institute scholar Andrew J. Coulson.

The current plan would pay an amount only equivalent to 40 percent of the per-pupil allocation and there would be no income restriction on eligibility. The account could be used for educational expenses that include private school tuition, private tutoring, textbooks or college savings plans.

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit