Family Empowerment Scholarship Program (Educational Opportunity Voucher)
- Enacted 2019
- Launched 2019
Florida’s Empowerment Scholarship Program was created to alleviate the waitlist of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program while expanding school choice options for thousands of other low- and middle-income residents. It allows public school students from low- and middle-income families to receive vouchers to attend private schools of their choice. Learn more about the most up-to-date program details on this page, including eligibility, funding, regulations, legal history and more.
We do not administer this program.
Participating Students (Fall 2021)
of Families Income-eligible Statewide
Eligible Schools (2021–22)
Average Voucher Value (Fall 2021)
Average Value as a Percentage of Public School Per-student Spending
Florida Family Empowerment Scholarship Program Participation
Family Empowerment Scholarships are funded at 100 percent of Florida’s unweighted full-time equivalent amount ($7,403 in 2020–21), less the Exceptional Services Education expenses, or a private school’s tuition and fees, whichever amount is less. Payments are transferred quarterly from the state’s general revenue fund for parents to use at participating private schools.
Students are initially eligible for Family Empowerment Scholarships if they (a) are directly certified to receive food assistance, TANF benefits or qualify for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, (b) are from families whose income does not exceed 375 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) ($104,063 for a family of four in 2022-23, (c) are in foster care, (d) are the dependent child of a member of the United States Armed Forces, or (e) are the sibling of a participating student. Priority is given to students whose household income does not exceed 185 percent of FPL ($51,338 for a family of four in 2022-23) and children in foster care or out-of-home care. Once a recipient of a Family Empowerment Scholarship, a student remains eligible until graduating from high school or becoming 21 years old, regardless of the family’s income level. Siblings of participating students are also eligible for the program for the duration of their K–12 education.
The program was capped at 46,500 students for the 2020–21 school year. It is allowed to grow by 1 percent of the state’s total public school enrollment each year (currently about 28,500 students per year.)
EdChoice Expert Feedback
Florida’s voucher program helps tens of thousands of low-income students access schools that are the right fit for them, but policymakers could do more to expand educational opportunity.
Eligibility for the vouchers is limited to 375 percent of the federal poverty line, among other eligibility categories, with preference given to lower-income families. Roughly two-thirds of Florida students are eligible to receive a voucher. Statewide, less than 10 percent of students participate in one of Florida’s private educational choice options (including the Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship Program, the Hope Scholarships Program, and the Family Empowerment Scholarship (Unique Abilities) Scholarship Program). This is the second highest EdChoice share in the nation.
The average scholarship size is about $7,300, which is about 55 percent of the average total expenditure per student at Florida’s district schools. The program is capped at 46,500 vouchers in 2020-21 but the number of available vouchers increases each year by 1 percent of the total public school enrollment (about 28,000 students).
Florida’s voucher program generally avoids unnecessary and counterproductive regulations.
Rules and Regulations
- Income Limit: 375 percent x Poverty
- Prior Year Public School Requirement: None
- Geographic Limit: Statewide
- Enrollment Cap: 75,573 in 2021–22, plus students exempted from the cap (dependents of military personnel, children in foster care or adopted, and students from families earning up to 185 percent of the federal poverty line who attended a public school in the previous year); cap has an escalator of 1 percent of public school attendance per year
- Voucher Cap: 100 percent unweighted state funding, less Exceptional Services Education expenses
- Testing Mandates: Nationally norm-referenced tests
- Be approved by the state
- Allow administration of testing with district for students requesting state assessment
- Provide fee schedules to the department of education at least 30 days before the first quarterly payment
- Submit to the state annual sworn compliance reports regarding all local and state health and safety codes
- Comply with federal nondiscrimination requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 2000d
- Teachers and other school personnel who work with scholarship recipients must undergo federal background checks
- Teachers must have a bachelor’s degree, three years of teaching experience or special expertise
- Schools in operation for fewer than three years must obtain a surety bond or letter of credit to cover the value of the scholarship payments for one quarter
- Notify the Florida Department of Education when a scholarship student withdraws from the school
- Report student’s progress to parents annually
No legal challenges have been filed against this program.
Family Empowerment Scholarship Program (Educational Opportunity Voucher) State Groups
That Support School Choice
ExcelinEd supports state leaders in transforming education to unlock opportunity and lifelong success for each and every child through their policy work.
Step Up For Students is a state-approved nonprofit scholarship funding organization that helps administer five scholarships for Florida schoolchildren: the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) and the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) for lower-income families, the Gardiner Scholarship for children with certain special needs, the Hope Scholarship for public school students who are bullied or victims of violence and the Reading Scholarship Accounts for public school students in third through fifth grade who struggle with reading.