Florida Legislature Takes Up School Choice 2.0

A pair of “School Choice 2.0” initiatives may soon become law in Florida.

This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Monday, March 25th.

This session, the Florida State legislature will consider two bills that embody what reformers now call “School Choice 2.0,” two new approaches to increasing educational options for families in the Sunshine State.

Both approaches under consideration have been adopted individually by states, but never together. 

One, the creation of charter courses is already available in Louisiana; it was signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal in 2012. Like the name implies, a charter course is a publicly funded, district-approved alternate academic program—but for just a single subject, such as a college course or an online program like Khan Academy. 

Jeff BrandesUnder the Florida charter course bill, introduced by Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes, either the state would contract with course providers and make them available to families on an approved course list, or individual districts could allocate funds to state accredited courses and make them available to students. 

In either case, funding of the charter courses would be performance-driven. The popularity of courses and the successful completion rates of students in them would drive compensation to the course providers.

The second Choice 2.0 option being taken up by the Florida legislature right now, the Education Savings Account, or ESA, was first adopted by the state of Arizona in 2011.  

ESA’s are similar to health savings accounts, in that they grant individual families the independent authority to decide how the wish to spend funds dedicated to a particular service. 

Just as health savings accounts remove citizens from being forced into the rigid choices laid out by insurance companies in terms of what care they will access, education savings accounts let parents bypass the public education bureaucracy and lets them pay for what they believe are the best educational choices for their children.

Parents must submit quarterly receipts to show how they are spending the money.

Under the Florida proposal, students would be allowed to keep a portion of the funds normally allocated to their district for their education. What this percentage should be is still under discussion by legislators but the Arizona ESA stipulates 90 percent of the student per pupil allocation stays with the student in the ESA. 

Jonathan ButcherJonathan Butcher, Education Director for the Goldwater Institute, who helped write the most recent update to the Arizona ESA law, says that Florida’s bill will dramatically widen options for families.

With Florida’s program, having looked at the legislation, I think it’s an excellent step. You know, you’re talking about a very strong language that gives parents a number of options, they can buy private school tuition; they can save for college; buy text books. So that is excellent.  And I think it is a significant step forward for school choice in Florida.

He points to other elements of the law adopted in Arizona that might be part of the Florida law as truly evidence of a new level of true educational control for parents focused on student needs rather than bureaucrat’s priorities.

Not only are we talking about just tuition for private schools or college but as well you can buy text books, you can buy education therapy for a child, you can pay for tutoring services So there is a kind of litany you can use your account for. 

Both final bills shapes have weeks yet to form as committee work begins on them. We will bring you more from their sponsors as they make headway through the legislative process.

All the day's news in education reform available at ChoiceMedia.TV.

© 2013 Choice Media 

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