September 20, 2022

Florida's Hidden Voucher Expansion: Over $1 Billion From Public Schools to Fund Private Education

Over the past four years, Florida has seen tremendous growth in the amount of public funds being spent on private education. In this report we find that:

  • In 2022-23, an estimated $1.3 billion in funding will be redirected from public school districts to private education, representing 10% of state K-12 education funds allocated through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP), the state’s school funding formula;
  • This sum is in addition to a potential $1.1 billion taken from general revenue that would otherwise be used to support state services, including education, as a result of tax credits claimed by businesses that donate to voucher programs;
  • Deductions to local school districts’ budgets to account for students receiving vouchers occur after annual school budgets have been finalized. This poor timing is even more challenging because of mid-year increases in voucher costs and district fixed costs;
  • The impact of vouchers on districts’ budgets ranges up to 9% of the total FEFP budget (state and local dollars) as of the start of the 2022-23 school year.

The movement of public funding to private education occurs in the context of Florida’s substantial underfunding of the state’s public schools, as highlighted in Making the Grade 2021.

Florida receives an F on an A-F scale on all three funding metrics: funding level, funding distribution,and funding effort.

Since 2019, the flow of public funds to private education dramatically increased after the State Legislature enacted the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) program. While voucher programs are often funded as line-item appropriations in the state budget or through state tax credits, the FES voucher is funded from FEFP state allocations that would otherwise be directed to the student’s resident public school district. In 2021, legislation expanded eligibility for the FES voucher program resulting in even more state tax dollars being re-routed from public school districts to private education throughout the state.

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