The fate of greater Education al choice in the sunshine state hangs in the balance as both chambers of the Florida legislatures unexpectedly adjourned early this week over disagreements on Medicaid and Budget issues before a final vote on a school choice could take place. Hispanic families have a lot at stake in this legislative impasse. Unless the Senate takes up and passes SB 1552/HB 1445, it will die – and hundreds of thousands of Hispanic families will miss the opportunity to access better schools, and ultimately give their children a brighter, more prosperous future this year.
Before adjourning, The House passed H.B. 1145, which would empower parents with the ability to choose the best Education al path for their child by providing – amongst other things – the option to choose any public school in the state, as long as there is capacity. The bill now awaits Senate action, where it would need to be passed with no amendments by Friday to become law, but It looks increasingly unlikely that the bill would be considered and ultimately passed. It is unclear at this point when the Governor will call for a special session to resume the legislative work, but when he does, this session is expected to focus exclusively on the Budget , leaving little or no room to consider other bills.
Florida’s Hispanic families want greater Education al choice. No student should have to wait for the chance to access a better school because of political bickering of elected officials. It should be a priority for all of Florida’s legislators that this bill is considered and passed. Florida has been a champion for school choice in the last 15 years. Hispanic students in Florida have greatly benefitted from the school choice-oriented reforms which have helped them close the achievement gap and ultimately learn better. This is not the time to break this positive record. Florida needs expand school choice because it has been proven to work.
At a time when the Florida legislature is debating the Budget , legislators should remember that with a better Education comes greater prosperity, greater opportunity, and higher incomes – and in return more revenues for the state. Florida has made it part of its economic strategy to expand high-tech employment and attract technology industries. But high-paying jobs in high-tech industries require a highly educated workforce. School choice gives students the opportunity to receive an Education that will help them realize their full potential and access these and other jobs. It is imperative that the Florida legislature put differences aside and do what is right for Florida’s students: pass a bill that empowers parents, puts children on a path to prosperity, and secures the economic future of the state.