Q&A of the Day – Will Florida’s Parents be able to Use School Vouchers for Multiple Children?
Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.
iHeartRadio: Use the Talkback feature – the microphone button on our station’s page in the iHeart app.
Today’s Entry: Submitted via talkback pertaining to a father’s question about School Choice. Specifically, he’s asked if he’ll be eligible for school vouchers next school year for his two children which currently attend a private school at a cost of $7,000 each.
Bottom Line: With Universal School Choice set to be a reality in Florida for the upcoming school year, next level questions like this one have continued to roll in. And it’s a great time to start having this conversation so you’re aware of the ins and outs of this legislation and can plan for your family accordingly. I’ll address your specific example in a way that should help illustrate the considerations for all parents, along with what you need to plan and account for leading up to the start of the 2023-2024 school year. That starts with an important first question. Is the school your children attend eligible for school vouchers currently?
There aren’t many strings attached with Florida’s school choice legislation for parents as written, but there is one huge factor that’s out of the control of parents. Is the preferred private school qualified under Florida’s school choice program? It’s incumbent upon all private schools to apply with the state in order to be eligible for Florida’s school choice program. So that’s step one. Parents should look up their children’s current school or preferred school to see if they’re already enrolled with the state. While most of Florida’s private schools are enrolled, approximately 20% aren’t. It’s possible that with the expansion of school choice additional private schools will enroll with the state, though there’s no certainty that they will (that’s a conversation potentially worth having with the school’s administrator should you find your child’s preferred school isn’t currently qualified with the state). That said, even if a private school which isn’t qualified chooses to, the fastest possible timeline for completing the process is around nine months – meaning it wouldn’t be ready for the upcoming school year.
Once it’s been determined that your school of choice is eligible, you’ll want to be ready for the state’s opening of the portal for expanded vouchers. You’ll sign up for an account with the state which will be funded for the reimbursement of the tuition costs. Step Up for Students and AAA Scholarship Foundation are set to be the organizations acting as conduits. And that takes us to the process for how that will work. Once a school has been chosen, the state requires parents to meet with school officials to review policies, programs and expectations as part of that process. It’s likely that’s a formality for parents with children already attending a private school as is the case with your children. And then there’s the final determining factor. The priority with which vouchers will be issued:
- First choice: Families with household incomes of up to 185% of the federal poverty level. That’s approximately $51,338 for a family of four (that figure is dynamic and may be adjusted higher by the time the program is administered – word is the number could be closer to $55k by the fall)
- Second choice: Families with household incomes between 186%-400% of the federal poverty level. That’s approximately up to $115k to $120k
- Third choice: All families with incomes above the second-choice tier
In situations like yours, where your children are established in schools, you’d not be impacted by the choice tier, as that should apply for new enrollment. There are still many details to work out, none the least of which is the actual funding for this initiative in the state budget. That said, if your children’s private school is among the vast majority of private schools eligible for the state’s voucher program – you should see the tuition for both of your children covered next school year if you opt into the program provided that the legislature funds the program in a way that’s consistent with the way the new law is written.