A bill approved by the Florida House of Representatives last week would allow all Florida parents to receive $8,000 if they chose to send their child to private school or to home school, without taking into account income levels or special needs.
Currently, Florida only subsidies school choice for special needs or low-income families.
The bill is being praised by Florida Jewish groups as a way to ensure all Jewish families in the state will have access to Jewish education.
The bill passed the Republican majority House largely along partisan lines on Friday, 83-27, WPTV reported, with only a handful of Democrats voting in favour.
Governor Ron DeSantis has promised to sign the legislation if it comes across his desk.
Families would be eligible for the grants if “the student is a resident of this state and is eligible to enroll in kindergarten through grade 12 in a public school in this state.”
The measure would create “education savings accounts” allowing families to spend the funds on a variety of education-related purchases, including educational materials, tuition, and exam fees.
“Competition works. Competition makes public schools better. Competition makes private schools better. And the other systems that we actually are encouraging by these education savings accounts,” Republican State Rep. Ralph Massullo said during the debate on the House floor, according to WCJB.
The legislation is being supported by Jewish organizations in Florida who have been calling for such a measure to support Jewish education for years.
“We were blessed to have Governor Jeb Bush over 20 years ago, who created a tax credit program for lower income families, and for those with children who have special needs,” Danny Aqua, the head of school choice advocacy group Teach Florida, that connected with the Orthodox Union, told Hamodia. “But it was very limited; it had a cap on how many people would qualify, and how much they can get.”
Agudath Israel called the proposal “historic, extremely bold and broad in terms of its reach.”
“It’s something that has been driven mainly by the legislators and majority parties themselves,” Agudath Israel of Florida’s director Rabbi Moshe Matz told the news outlet. “I think they feel empowered to promote this because at the end of the day these programs have been so successful in helping children.”