Florida’s Senate Education committee voted 6-4 to pass SB 506, a bill to expand the state’s Hope Scholarships for students who were bullied or the victims of abuse. If signed into law, the bill would expand eligibility for the scholarship program to include students in school districts that have been sanctioned by the state Board of Education for failing to follow state rules or laws. The bill now goes to the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee.
Granite State lawmakers moved HB 607, which establishes locally funded “Education Freedom Accounts,” through the House Education Committee by a vote of 10-9. This piece of legislation allows for local school districts to offer the local portion of a student’s per-pupil funding in an account that can be used for tuition, textbooks, curriculum, therapies and more. This differs from the newly enacted “Education Freedom Account” program that allows for state funds to be used for the same expenses.
Earlier this month, lawmakers in both legislative chambers approved the state budget, SB 105, by a vote of 104-10 in the House and 40-8 in the Senate. The budget includes an expansion of the Opportunity Scholarship Program and combines both the Personal Education Savings and Special Education Grant Programs. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the legislation today.
Under the expansion, the Opportunity Scholarship (OSP) voucher value will increase from $4,200 per year to 90 percent of the average per-pupil state K-12 allocation based on the prior fiscal year. This is projected to be an estimated average of $5,850 per year. Additionally, student eligibility has expanded from 150 percent to 175 percent of the family household income required to qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program.
The state budget also combines both the Disability Scholarship Grant and Personal Education Savings Account to create the Personal Education Student Account for Children with Disabilities Program. This new program’s award will include the state allocation for children with disabilities plus 85 percent of the average state per-pupil allocation. Additionally, students with certain disabilities such as autism, hearing impairment, or visual impairment can qualify for aid up to $17,000 per student.