Scott: Let more children access Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts

Florida’s Republican governor says he wants to expand the pool of children who would qualify for the state’s new personal learning accounts.

Scott Personal Learning Scholarship Account event
Gov. Rick Scott at a recent campaign event focused on special needs students.

In the midst of a contentious back-and-forth over education, Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign released a second-term agenda Monday morning. The Associated Press has fleshed out some details already, but one noteworthy proposal hasn’t gotten much attention: A declaration that, if re-elected, the governor “will expand the list of disabilities that are eligible for the Florida Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts.”

Now in their first year, the accounts are available to children in eight categories of significant special needs, including autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. Scott indicated during previous campaign events that he planned to expand the accounts, but had not specified what form he hoped that expansion would take.

Education has become a central issue in the the governor’s race. Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who is expected to gain the Democratic nomination after Tuesday’s primary, recently attacked Scott on education funding during a statewide bus tour.

Scott has responded with pledges to spend a record amount on public schools next year, followed by the more detailed education agenda released Monday. The agenda also includes an idea Crist has also endorsed: Allowing businesses to apply for tax credits if they donate to public schools. That plan is intended to mimic the state’s tax credit scholarship program, which allows companies to receive tax credits if they help fund tuition for private-school students. It’s not clear exactly how the idea would work in practice.

Both the tax credit scholarships and personal learning accounts are administered by scholarship funding organizations like Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.

The Crist campaign dismissed the Monday announcement, with a spokesman repeating its attacks on education cuts during Scott’s first year in office to the the Miami Herald.