by ian kingsbury, Phd
In his most recent inaugural address, Governor DeSantis pledged that Florida “must always be a great place to raise a family.” Thanks to House Bill 1, families across the Sunshine State now enjoy expansive autonomy in tailoring each child’s education to suit their needs, passions, and desires. The landmark legislation represents an enormous victory for the educational freedom movement, and a critical, necessary step toward the Governor’s promise.
In April, the Educational Freedom Institute published an open letter to Florida legislators – with signatures from some of the most prolific warriors for parental rights – that provided a roadmap with specific recommendations to ensure that Florida’s education system maximally embraces parental primacy, excellence, and innovation. The letter was featured in a FOX News article in January. Florida lawmakers have adopted these recommendations with remarkable fidelity. With enormous gratitude, we commend Florida lawmakers for:
· Providing universal access to education savings accounts. Some states restrict access to school choice based on income eligibility. These restrictions mistakenly give the impression that educational freedom is a social program rather than a universal right.
· Allowing ESAs to be used at any eligible private school, whether boarding, religious, virtual, vocational, or something else.
· Eliminating restrictions on home-based learning opportunities by adopting part-time enrollment and removing enrollment caps on online school programs through budget conforming bill HB5101.
· Ensuring that homeschoolers are not subject to regulations associated with ESA uptake. Every parent should be in control of their child’s education. That must include the right to refuse public funds and associated regulations.
Enactment of HB 1 provides Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) to every K-12 student in the state which can be used to pay for private school tuition, homeschooling, or other educational expenses. As with many new laws, Florida’s ESA law will need some refining in the next session to align statutory language with legislative intent to guarantee every family has equal opportunity to use ESAs for whatever education options they desire. Nevertheless, with the passage of HB 1, Florida becomes the fourth state in the U.S. to enact universal ESAs and, once again, can make a strong claim to be America’s #1 school choice state.
With these reforms, Florida is raising the standard for what it means to be pro-family. The millions of parents in Florida are grateful for these efforts as are the thousands more who will move there to reap the opportunities they create. We hope lawmakers in other states soon follow Florida’s sterling example.
Educational Freedom Institute