JMI Policy Nerds Pen Valentines Day Ode to Senate School Choice Proposal

With February 14 fast approaching, the policy nerds at The James Madison Institute are counting the many reasons why we love the Florida Senate’s new school choice proposal. Sure, this is hopelessly pathetic; but the object of JMI’s policy attention is certainly worthy of Floridians’ affection.

So, why does JMI find the Senate school choice proposal so captivating? Here, let us count the ways . . .

  1. It simplifies the current system. The Senate measure would consolidate five existing scholarship programs into two – one for special needs students, the other for everyone else. This would make it much easier for Florida families to apply for a scholarship. Much.
  1. It gives parents greater flexibility. Not only does the Senate measure consolidate programs, but it also retains the best features of each. For example, under the Senate proposal, all families would now enjoy the flexibility of Education Savings Accounts. Parents could use their child’s per-pupil funds to pay for bundled programs (tuition) or for unbundled services (books, computers, curriculum, tutors, etc.). Whatever fits their child best. Bravo!
  1. It prioritizes the needy. The Senate measure retains Florida’s long-standing practice of prioritizing low-income students. This is a no-brainer. Florida’s legendary educator Mary McLeod Bethune would be proud. (Which begs a good question – why not name the new main K-12 scholarship after Bethune? Wouldn’t that be a fitting way to pay tribute to her?)
  1. It avoids penalties on future success. The Senate measure retains a “once eligible, always eligible” provision in current law. This is wise. Low-income single moms who get a promotion – or a proposal to marry – should not have to worry about their kids losing their scholarships.
  1. It welcomes those hit hard by the pandemic. The Senate measure retains a provision in current law that does not require prior public school attendance. For many families who have struggled to pay for schooling during the pandemic, this is a godsend. For all families, this ends a form of systemic privilege – and replaces it with a level playing field. Hooray!
  1. It shows a concern for student safety. The Senate proposal retains the current practice of giving a lifeline to victims of bullying who want to switch schools. Parents concerned about the safety of their children should have more than one option. COVID has certainly reminded us of that.
  1. It protects faith-based options. Consistent with last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision – and current Florida law – the Senate proposal respects the right of parents to send their child to a faith-based school (like the one Mary McLeod Bethune founded). Once again, the level-playing-field principle comes into play, treating all parents fairly.
  1. It strengthens Florida’s position as America’s unrivaled “education destination.” The Senate proposal provides yet another reason for “digital nomads” (and their talented offspring) to move to Florida. Maybe someday other states will finally listen to the frustrations of their education-minded parents. In the meantime, Florida welcomes everyone looking for education freedom.

So, there you have it – the top eight reasons JMI loves the Senate’s school choice proposal. One for every day of the week (if you count like the guy who wants to fill the world with “silly love songs”).