March 23, 2023

Education Advocates Reiterate Concerns on Universal Voucher Bill Following Senate Passage, Urge Governor to Veto Legislation

Groups point to outsized cost, call HB 1 ‘a handout to the wealthiest Floridians’

FLORIDA - Florida Policy Institute (FPI), MomsRising, Alliance for Public Schools, and Families for Strong Public Schools today released statements following the Senate’s passage of HB 1, legislation that would create a universal voucher and education savings account program.

A recent analysis from FPI and the Education Law Center found that a universal voucher program under HB 1 would cost the state an estimated $4 billion in the first year of implementation.

Sadaf Knight, CEO of FPI, said: “Last week, FPI urged the Florida Senate to include growth caps, income limits, and measures to ensure transparency and accountability in the program. None of these recommendations made it into the bill. Funneling this much in taxpayer dollars to private schools with no parameters to ensure accountability for student success is fiscally irresponsible and puts at risk the families and communities who utilize our state’s public schools and the services they provide.

“As each chamber rolls out their education budgets, one thing is clear: the significant and growing projected cost of universal vouchers under HB 1 poses a threat to school districts’ budgets for the foreseeable future. At the very least, budget committee chairs are listening to the concerns of experts and the public on fiscal projections — both chambers proposed reserves for the program in case their estimates were too low. The reserves proposed are not enough if the voucher participation grows to meet FPI's projections, however. A common sense way to rein in the cost of the voucher program is to add back in income eligibility limits as the governor outlined in his proposed version of the legislation. Then, the proposed funding for reserves could be used towards things like raising teacher pay and affordable housing. We strongly urge Gov. DeSantis to veto HB 1.”

Nina Perez, national director for Early Learning at MomsRising, said: “Florida moms are dismayed that the state Senate has joined the House in a massive and shameful raid on public education. Making every Florida student eligible for private school vouchers, paid for with our tax dollars, means funds that should support public education will instead be diverted to private schools, even if they refuse to enroll disabled, LGBTQ+, or other children. Moms want lawmakers to invest in our public schools so that all students can get a quality education. Starving public schools of resources they need will harm every aspect of our state, including its economy.”

Melissa Erickson, executive director of the Alliance for Public Schools, said: “We continue to be alarmed by the lack of responsible spending limits in this voucher bill. We call on Governor DeSantis to rein in the potential financial drain on the education budget. He must protect funding for traditional public schools where the majority of Florida’s families choose to send their children.”

Damaris Allen, executive director of Families for Strong Public Schools: “As a public school parent I am deeply disappointed to see universal voucher legislation pass both the House and the Senate. Our investment in our public schools has decreased by 18% since 2006 all while our Legislature has consistently voted to divert precious tax dollars to private schools year after year. Now our legislators have decided to give a tax break to millionaires and billionaires on the backs of the average Floridian and they are selling it as school choice. Floridians want high quality schools that are well-staffed with first-rate teachers, not a handout to the wealthiest Floridians.”

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