Group seeks information on Florida school voucher expansion

Bank of computers at Sheehy Elementary School. By Pamela Robinson/WMNF News (2022).

A non-profit group Wednesday called for the state Department of Education to provide information about how many additional private schools are accepting vouchers after a massive expansion of voucher programs took effect in July.

A new law (HB 1), approved by the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis this spring, made changes such as eliminating income eligibility requirements to receive vouchers and allowing homeschooled students to receive the assistance.

The Florida Policy Institute, a non-profit that has opposed the voucher expansion, is seeking information about private schools accepting the taxpayer-funded vouchers and other details such as demographic information about voucher recipients.

“The scholarships represent an enormous investment in education. And there is no way for us to understand the return on that investment without understanding who’s benefiting from the scholarships,”

Norin Dollard, a senior policy analyst at the Florida Policy Institute, said during a news conference Wednesday.

The group said that such information has not been published by the Department of Education.

In a letter Wednesday to Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., the Florida Policy Institute requested the number of “new private schools that have applied to accept” vouchers.

Dollard said the request isn’t limited to newly opened private schools, but would include existing schools that are accepting vouchers for the first time.

“There are private schools that have never … enrolled as approved schools to be able to participate in the voucher programs. So, maybe they’re new. There are requirements in HB 1 about new schools opening up, but there’s also private schools that hadn’t previously participated that may now be participating,” Dollard told reporters.

The Florida Policy Institute also is seeing information about how many families of home-schooled students have applied for vouchers.

The News Service of Florida has sought information from the education department related to the number of private schools accepting vouchers this year but has not received responses.

©2023 The News Service of Florida

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