Arizona recently became the first state to pass universal school choice in the wake of the belligerent school lockdown campaign perpetrated by the Left and teachers’ unions during the pandemic.
The lockdowns left countless kids years behind in their academic progress, and it also awakened the nation’s parents to the rot and outright corruption occurring within their kid’s classrooms. The righteous outrage that spurred led to protests at school boards and a subsequent backlash by the federal government, which used our resources to then “investigate” these parents for exercising their basic civil rights and participating in their democracy.
So after Arizona, the question was really not ‘if’ more states would turn to school choice, but rather ‘which’ would be the next out the gate. And it seems we may soon have an answer on that as Florida just dropped its own universal school choice bill.
Thank you, Speaker of the House @Paul_Renner and Representative @KayleeTuck2 for #HB1, School Choice, we are excited about this transformational education legislative policy. #FlaPol pic.twitter.com/f26e9im6BS
— AFP Florida (@AFPFlorida) January 19, 2023
Want to know what’s in Florida’s most transformational educational bill HB 1 check out this tread. 👇 https://t.co/z1E1bjhKRu
— Skylar Zander (@SkylarZander) January 19, 2023
— Adam Peshek (@AdamPeshek) January 19, 2023
The bill has the support of the state’s Speaker of the House Paul Renner, which if you know anything about how politics work, is a huge deal. Speakers have immense sway in their legislative bodies, and a lot of control over what committees bills are assigned to and whether or not they can even get to the House floor for a vote. (Meaning, it looks like smooth sailing so far).
“This is about educational freedom,” Republican House Speaker Paul Renner told Spectrum News. “It’s not telling you how you’re gonna raise your children, how you’re gonna educate your children. It’s about making sure that public education means empowering every child, every child, to customize an education that best suits their needs.”
Representative Kaylee Tuck is also spearheading the legislation, and it is structured to convert the state’s existing (but limited) Family Empowerment Scholarship voucher into a universal education savings account (ESA) program. We love this for a number of reasons.
ESA programs are the smartest way to structure school choice because they put tax dollars back into the hands of the citizens. Families receive a portion of the funding spent on their kid’s education (which averages something like $15,000 per year, per kid in the nation’s public schools. Crazy!) and it is placed into an ESA account, which operates sort of like an HSA account for those familiar with the model.
Families can choose to reinvest in their public school if they like it, or use those dollars towards private schools, homeschooling, online classes, tutoring, or some combination of approved education services. Typically those dollars can rollover year after year, which encourages frugality and saving for more expensive educational investments down the road (like college level courses).
This model means public schools actually have to compete and earn tax dollars. And that’s a good thing as even though the expenditures in government schools are bonkers, the results have been spiraling for decades. It also means schools can’t teach unpopular, indoctrination garbage in the classrooms. If they want parents to send their kids there, then they’ll have to earn the approval of parents as well. Both factors bring an actual marketplace back into the government monopoly on education that has been strangling our progress for decades.
It also means poor and lower middle income students will no longer be stuck in failing government schools that should be forced to close. Public schools that do a good job will thrive under this model, as ESAs actually leave more money per pupil in the classroom (the federal dollars would typically still stay put even if a child un-enrolls), and those performing well will attract more students.
Meanwhile, it opens the door for a lot more innovation in education too, which the monopoly system has prevented. Is it a good idea to make kids sit at desks for seven hours to learn? Probably not. And with modern technology that’s no longer really necessary. All kinds of new models could open and offer more ingenious ways of obtaining an education, with various structures available for families to choose from based on their unique child and needs.
Florida is increasingly becoming the nation’s bellwether state, certainly on the Right. And the winds are blowing in the direction of freedom and choice in the education system. If Florida passes this program, and we think they will, it’s likely we’ll see a domino effect in other states too.
Hannah Cox is a consultant for Americans for Prosperity, which works on this issue in Florida.