Changes to Private School Scholarship Programs in Florida
Recently, the State of Florida announced the passage of HB 7045 through the Florida House of Representatives (79-36 vote) and Florida State Senate (25-14 vote) which makes changes to a few private school scholarship programs. It is now ready to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis for a final signature. These changes are one step closer to expanding the private school voucher program in a major way for parents, and giving greater opportunities for school choice to families.
If you are hoping to understand how these changes might affect your family, Lakeside Christian School, a Christian private school in Clearwater, FL, shares some of the biggest impacts in this brief article. These changes apply to both private high schools in Clearwater, FL as well as private middle and elementary schools.
The Bill in a Nutshell
In a nutshell, House Bill 7045 is all about expanding school choice. According to the Florida Senate, the bill includes:
“School Choice; Revises student eligibility requirements under Family Empowerment Scholarship program to include students with disabilities; revises provisions related to calculation of maximum amount of scholarship funds granted to a student with disabilities; revises provisions related to funding and payment of scholarships awarded under program; providing requirements for use of funds under program; revising program administration obligations; repeals Gardiner Scholarship Program; provides for future repeal of John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program; providing certain students with disabilities are eligible for enrollment in transition-to-work programs; revising amount of eligible contributions used for administrative expenses by an eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization under Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.”
You can read House Bill 7045 in its entirety here. Let’s break down what these changes actually look like:
Scholarships for Active-Duty Military
Many private schools offer discounted tuition for active-duty military members, however in some cases they may have qualified for tuition assistance. However, with the passage of HB 7045, more military members would have access to private school vouchers. With this bill, all active-duty military members will automatically be eligible for a state scholarship for private schools through either the Step Up for Students program or the Family Empowerment Program.
However, families must submit an application before June 4th for a 100% award.
Foster-to-Adopt Voucher Expansion
Another major expansion to scholarships due to HB7045 comes for families who have adopted a child from the foster care system. These families will now automatically qualify for a scholarship voucher.
The deadline for families to apply for this scholarship voucher is also June 4.
Changes to the Gardiner and McKay Scholarships
The biggest change coming as a result of HB 7045 is the consolidation of the Gardiner and McKay scholarship programs, which serve students with family needs. These would be combined with the Step Up or Family Empowerment Scholarship program, which are currently in place to serve a broad population of low-to-middle-income families.
It should be noted that currently the McKay and Step Up scholarships do not cover 100% of tuition costs.
Currently, the McKay scholarship is available to all students currently in the Florida Public School system who have a qualified IEP or 504 plan for specific learning issues. The Step Up scholarship is available to all Florida residents with students in grades K-12 whose families meet specific income requirements.
However, with the combination of these scholarships, there will also be a change to the financial eligibility. HB 7045 will increase the maximum income eligibility to receive vouchers to 375% of the federal poverty level. For example, that would mean that a family for 4 making around $100,000 per year would qualify.
Further, all families who currently have a child with either the Gardiner or the McKay Scholarships will automatically receive a Step Up or Family Empowerment Scholarship for their other students, regardless of the family income. Meaning that if the family has one child in the school on a scholarship, that child’s siblings will qualify.
At this time, the bill does not appear to address any changes to the FACTS scholarship. The FACTS scholarship is available to all parents who desire that their student attend Lakeside Christian School. This is an income-based scholarship designed to help create more affordable tuition.
Why School Choice Matters with Scholarship Programs
For many families, scholarship programs are the key to unlocking your child’s full potential at a private school in Clearwater, FL. These scholarships are just a few of the many options that families who want to provide their children with a private education can explore. Remember, the deadline to apply for some of these scholarships is June 4th.
While public schools offer a myriad of positive benefits, many families are taking time post-Covid to explore what is best for their individual child.
With over 40 years of experience and a diverse student body of children from families of all socioeconomic backgrounds and income levels, Lakeside Christian School is built on the biblical principles of loving God and loving others. This care is demonstrated through the warm, respectful relationships among staff and between staff and students, and uses a tailored approach to your child’s education. If you’re interested in learning more about how we challenge all of our students to achieve their academic and personal goals, give us a call.
If you would like to learn more about Lakeside Christian School, a private school in Clearwater, FL, please give us a call at (727) 239-7808 or schedule a tour of our campus.