Corey Simon files school choice legislation

[Florida's Voice] Corey Simon files school choice legislation

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FLV) – Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, filed legislation that aims to promote parental involvement and “customize” K-12 education in Florida.

The legislation “empowers” parents to guide their children’s education by providing an Education Savings Account for every student in the K-12 system, according to a senate press release.

The right and the responsibility of raising children belongs to parents, not state government. This bill makes it clear that the money follows the child, and parents have a right to guide their child’s education as they see fit. Here in the free State of Florida, we stand with parents. We recognize that parents are a child’s first and best teachers, and we support the vital and irreplaceable role of a parent to decide what academic experience best fits the needs of their child. At the same time, we take important steps to allow our legacy, neighborhood public schools to thrive in the communities they serve.

Sen. Cory Simon

The press release said the bill also takes the first step towards reducing onerous and excessive regulations on public schools.

This visionary bill makes school choice a reality for every child in every family across our great state by providing parents the chance to guide how and where the funding for their children’s education is spent. Universal school choice means that every school has a chance to compete for students, and their parents can decide the best fit. Additionally, by reducing red tape that burdens our traditional public schools, these institutions, which have served our communities for generations, will have a meaningful chance to compete right alongside other school choice options.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo

Florida currently offers scholarship programs for eligible students – typically students from lower income families – to attend private schools that a parent decides will better help the student.

These programs include the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and the Family Empowerment Scholarship for students attending private school. The Family Empowerment Scholarship provides scholarships for students with unique abilities. It provides educational savings accounts for parents to send money for their child either to a private school or other educational services and materials.

A press release said eligibility for all school choice programs is currently limited by state law in the form of an income or enrollment cap.

SB 202 would expand eligibility for Florida’s School Choice Scholarships to all students who are residents of Florida and eligible to enroll in K-12 public schools. Under the bill, parents will receive an education savings account to take dollars the State of Florida has appropriated for their child in the public education system and choose among a variety of options to customize their child’s education.

Traditional, neighborhood public schools have been, and will continue to be, the backbone of our K-12 education system. We want our schools to be the first choice for parents, not the default choice, and to do that we need to reduce some of the outdated, unnecessary, and quite frankly, burdensome regulations that public schools have to abide by. I appreciate the willingness of President Passidomo and Senator Simon to dig-in right along with us and cut some of the red tape right away. This is a great first step towards keeping our public schools competitive.

Chief Executive Officer of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents Bill Montford

The bill makes several immediate revisions to Florida’s Education Code, identified by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. For example: 

The bill reduces hurdles to a five-year temporary teacher certification for anyone with a bachelor’s degree and for those with two years of effective or highly effective service.The bill provides flexibility to school districts in setting salary schedules.The bill repeals the requirement that a student have one online credit in order to graduate from high school, which is not currently required in private schools.The bill also offers districts flexibility in facility costs for new construction, and offers student transportation flexibility to improve efficiency, while maintaining student safety.

To reduce additional regulation on public schools, the bill requires the State Board of Education to develop for adoption during the 2024 Legislative Session recommendations to repeal and revise portions of the Early Learning-20 Education Code, Title XLVIII, Florida Statutes. The Board is required to consider input from teachers, superintendents, administrators, school boards, public and private postsecondary institutions, home educators, and other entities.