Florida awarded more than 400,000 school voucher applications
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV/Gray Florida Capital Bureau) - Nearly 250,000 more students across the state have been awarded vouchers to attend private school this year.
That’s because this is the first school year every student in the state is eligible to receive vouchers.
In a news release Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said more than 407,000 students have been awarded scholarships to attend private schools across Florida, with thousands more still being processed.
“The families have been waiting for this. And now that they’re able to access they’re using them,” Federation for Children spokeswoman Hera Varmah said.
Varmah was one of the first students in Florida to attend a private school on a taxpayer scholarship. And now, she advocates for the voucher program to expand.
She said she’s happy to see hundreds of thousands of students participating after the Florida legislature eliminated income requirements to get the scholarships.
“I know exactly how it affects families. Even to this day, I still see so many families that are just so happy and so proud that they are able to access these scholarships,” Varmah said.
But just because families are being awarded vouchers, it doesn’t mean they are actually being used.
Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up For Students, runs Florida’s scholarship program. He said about 350,000 students will use the scholarships.
“A lot of the private schools are full already. I think demand has outstripped supply at the moment. So it will probably take a couple more years before there are enough seats out there,” Tuthill said.
Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said he wants to see just how much demand there is for more scholarships.
“There’s no data out that clearly says who is taking those vouchers, whether it’s students currently in public schools or if its students who are already home-schooled or attend private school,” Spar said.
He said instead, he’d like to see the state invest money in public schools.
“About 90% of students in the state of Florida attend our public schools. It’s about the same percentage it was 25 years ago when vouchers started,” Spar said.
Step Up For Students said without the expansion, it was expecting to award 20,000 more scholarships this year based on growth in recent years.
Tuthill said he expects to have to create a waitlist for scholarships set aside for students with disabilities.
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