Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed into law a bill creating a new voucher program for thousands of low- and middle-income students to attend private and religious schools using taxpayer dollars traditionally spent on public schools.
The $130 million Family Empowerment Scholarship program was a top priority for the Republican-led Legislature and DeSantis, who signed it during a ceremony at a religious school in Miami Gardens, a city with a predominantly African American population. Its passage marks one of the largest expansions of private-school voucher programs in the state’s history.
Up to 18,000 students can enroll in the program’s first year from families with annual incomes at 300% of federal poverty guidelines. For a family of four, that means those making no more than $77,250. The number of students who can participate could rise in future years.
DeSantis and GOP lawmakers say the program gives parents more school choice for their children, especially those in districts where local public schools are failing and those who have special issues that can be better addressed in a different education setting.