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Gov. DeSantis signs bill expanding scholarship programs

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Posted at 12:15 AM, Jun 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-26 00:26:18-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- Florida’s governor signed another education bill into law Thursday, expanding scholarship programs.

Governor Ron DeSantis visited Cristo Rey Tampa Salasian High School in Tampa to sign the K-12 Scholarship Programs legislation. The school said it prepares students from under-served communities to participate in rigorous academic programs to prepare for college.

This year, it will have its first graduating class. The school said 98 percent of its students are going to college, many who will be the first generation in their family to do so.

“We were also mindful of a lot of our low-income families who needed additional help to be able to get their kid in the school that best fits their child’s needs,” said DeSantis.

House Bill 7067 expands the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program.

The program was created last year, drawing its funding from the state budget and serving about 18,000 students. This latest bill expands the program to include nearly 29,000 additional students. It also adds eligibility for students who received a Florida Tax Credit scholarship in the previous year, but due to a lack of funds didn’t get a renewal. It also requires priority be given to students whose household incomes don’t exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty level or who are in foster care or out of the home. It also requires a scholarship-funding organization to refer students who didn’t receive one due to a lack of funds.

According to Step Up for Students, 5,977 students cumulatively enrolled in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship the last school year in Hillsborough County.

“This will be more opportunity and you look at lot of the stuff that’s going on in our country, a lot of controversies. I think if we, in the state of Florida, can say we’re doing everything we can to make sure that any child regardless of income, regardless of family status, regardless of race or ethnicity has tools to be able to make the most of their God-given talent. If we succeed in doing that, then we’re gonna be doing probably as much than anything else we can do,” said Gov. DeSantis.

“We are expanding a choice program that all of the national tests, all of the national surveys Northwestern just came out. Anytime you have robust choices, every single school gets better.” Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

A mother with four children utilizing the Florida Empowerment Scholarship Program shared the impact it’s had on her family.

“It means everything. I have been through so much with just school, period. So just to be able to have a choice and to be able to say, 'OK, this year, I’m going to use this scholarship for this school,” said Chikara Parks.

The bill signing came one day after the governor committed $500 million to teacher pay.

“The budget is obviously going to be a little bit more difficult than we anticipated but I felt we had to deliver on that core promise so that’s gonna be in the budget it’s good to go,” he said.