Florida’s new law provides state scholarships to all nonpublic school students

Spearheaded by Teach Florida and its coalition partners, the legislation will save families of children in Jewish day schools $7,800 per child and will serve as a model for states nationwide.

Kids at school learning. Credit: Pixabay.
Kids at school learning. Credit: Pixabay.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a school choice bill on Monday that will provide scholarships of almost $8,000 per child for all families with students in K-12 nonpublic schools and serve as a blueprint for similar legislation in states nationwide.House Bill 1, passed last week by the Florida House and Senate, provides parents of all kindergarten through 12 students in Florida access to state-sponsored scholarships to help pay for their preferred schools, regardless of family income. It will take effect on July 1.

The school-choice legislation was a top priority for House Speaker Paul Renner, who led the charge to pass this landmark legislation.

Speaker Renner’s total commitment to universal choice represents a dramatic advance in school-choice politics in Florida,” said Teach Florida chairman Dr. Allan Jacob. “The impact on our community will be enormous. Families, schools and the entire community will all benefit from this expansion. Teach Florida has been advocating this approach for years and Speaker Renner has warmly accepted our suggestions and genuinely appreciates our community’s support. We look forward to continuing working with Speaker Renner.”

Teach Florida, a division of the Teach Coalition, a national, nonpartisan grassroots movement that advocates for equitable government funding, security and quality education for nonpublic schools across the United States, spearheaded the passage of the legislation. Teach Florida and Teach Coalition are projects of the Orthodox Union, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization.

Teach Florida has been working tirelessly alongside other school-choice coalition partners including Step Up For Students, Foundation for Florida’s Future, the Florida Catholic Conference and others to expand state scholarships for all children.Already, Teach Coalition has begun laying the groundwork for similar, state-sponsored legislation nationwide, said Maury Litwack, Teach Coalition’s founder and the managing director of Public Affairs at the Orthodox Union.“The historic achievement of universal scholarships in Florida is just the beginning,” said Litwack. “Teach Coalition and our partners are working in several states to bring about transformational programs. Florida is paving the way and our activists are eager to take this momentum and truly make education affordable for all students.”The landmark legislation will provide every nonpublic school student with a state scholarship equivalent to 100% of state funding accorded to a public-school student, which Teach Florida executive director Danny Aqua estimates at $7,800 per child. Aqua hopes the funding will help schools combat the national teacher shortage, improve overall education quality, and increase access for families who struggle financially.

“People have been talking about universal school choice and scholarships for every child for decades,” said Aqua. “Now, thanks to Teach Florida’s incredible activists, engaged member schools, and tremendous coalition partners, Florida is going to be the first state with a major yeshivah and Jewish-day-school population to adopt this policy.”

The bill comes at a time when the cost of Jewish education is the No. 1 concern for some 85% of Modern Orthodox Jewish families, according to Nishma Research. More than 3,500 people had signed a petition organized by Teach Florida asking elected officials to Fund Every Child.

Florida is home to a growing Orthodox Jewish community. From 2018 to 2020, the number of students in Jewish day schools grew from 10,623 to 12,482, and 14 new schools opened for a current total of 64 such schools.

Learn more about Florida state scholarships and apply here: teachcoalition.org/fl-scholarship.

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Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union (OU), or Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs.
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