Florida

Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options Program

  • Education Savings Account (ESA)
  • Enacted 2019
  • Launched 2019

Florida’s Empowerment Scholarship (FES-EO) ESA Program is now the most expansive education savings account (ESA) program in the United States, with nearly 3 million students funded eligible for a flexible education, chosen by their parents.  It allows K–12 students  to receive an ESA funded by the state and administered by an approved scholarship-funding organization (SFO). Families can use the funds to pay for a variety of educational services, including private school tuition and fees, tutoring, online education, home education, curriculum, unbundled courses and services at a public school, tuition and fees for a choice navigator, therapy, postsecondary educational institutions in Florida and other defined educational services. Learn more about it on this page, including eligibility, funding, regulations, legal history and more. 

We do not administer this program.

  • 83,700

    Participating Students (2021–22)

  • 100%

    of Families Income-eligible Statewide

  • 1,960

    Eligible Schools (2021–22)

  • $7,612

    Average Voucher Value (2021–22)

  • 74%

    Average Value as a Percentage of Public School Per-student Spending

Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options Program

Students Participating
School Year Ending

Student Funding

Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship Program (ESA) is funded through the Florida Education Finance Plan. The per-pupil amount varies according to grade, county of residence and public school spending for students with disabilities, with the maximum equating to 100 percent of the unweighted full-time equivalent amount ($7,612 in 2021–22), less the Exceptional Services Education expenses. Payments are transferred quarterly from the state’s general revenue fund for parents to use for qualifying expenses. 

Qualifying expenses for education savings accounts include private school tuition and fees; transportation in certain instances; physical and digital instructional materials; tuition and fees for college; private tutoring; virtual education with Florida Virtual School or another approved provider; fees for nationally norm-referenced tests, AP exams, and industry certifications; unbundled courses and services at a public district school; and fees associated with a choice navigator.  

(Last updated April 11, 2023) 

Student Eligibility

Students are eligible for Family Empowerment Scholarship  education savings accounts if they are a Florida resident and are eligible to enroll in kindergarten through grade 12 in a public school.  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. Secondary priority is given to students whose household income is above 185 percent of FPL and up to 400 percent of FPL. 

Parents fill out a universal application, which applies to both Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC) program and Family Empowerment Scholarship program, but students are granted access under FTC until 75 percent of all estimated the net eligible contributions are used, at which point students may be awarded Family Empowerment Scholarships. 

(Last updated April 11, 2023) 

EdChoice Expert Feedback

In 2023, Florida policymakers took a giant leap in granting universal ESA access to all K–12 students. Additionally, they converted the Family Empowerment Scholarship Voucher to an Education Savings Account with broadly flexible use for parents. Florida is now the nationwide model for educational freedom and choice. Florida’s FES-EO ESA Program helps tens of thousands of low-income students access schools that are the right fit for them. 

With the 2023 expansion, Florida policymakers introduced a Choice Navigator for parents, an optional service provider to help guide parents through their choices via Florida’s various education savings account programs. 

Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship ESA program generally avoids unnecessary and counterproductive regulations.  

(Last updated April 11, 2023) 

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: None; Priority to 185% FPL and foster care 
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: None 
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide 
  • Enrollment Cap: None 
  • Account Cap: 100% unweighted state funding, less Exceptional Services Education expenses (No SFO payments to accounts with balances in excess of $24,000) 
  • Testing Mandates: Nationally norm-referenced tests 

 

School Requirements: 

  • 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 
  • Statement of waiver of rights under IDEA for students with disabilities 
  • Report student’s progress to parents annually 

(Last updated April 11, 2023) 

Governing Statutes

Fla. Stat. § 1002.394

(Last updated February 27, 2023) 

Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options Program 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.