May 19 2014
Vicki E. Alger
Florida may the country’s second state to enact an education savings account (ESA) program. Modeled after Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account ESA program enacted in 2011, Florida’s Personalized Learning Scholarship Accounts ESA legislation is awaiting the Gov. Rick Scott's signature. As Watchdog.org’s Mary C. Tillotson reports:
Parents of children with severe disabilities are applauding Florida’s lawmakers for passing a bill to help them pay for the tutoring and therapies their children need. ...
Florida Sen. Andy Gardiner’s bill allows for Personalized Learning Scholarship Accounts, which are modeled on Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, or education savings accounts. Parents receive a certain amount of money in an account they can spend on approved tutoring, therapy, curricula, textbooks or other educational expenses. Only children with specific special needs, including Down Syndrome and autism, are eligible.
“It’ll be helpful because for the first time, it’s a choice program that really allows a parent to customize education and services that their child needs in a way that best meets their child’s needs,” said Patricia Levesque, executive director of Foundation for Florida’s Future.
Florida has a variety of school choice programs already, but it’s often hard for parents to find a school that has all the services their child needs, Levesque said. The PLSAs give parents the flexibility to pay for the variety of services their children need.
Which raises a good point. Oftentimes state lawmakers in states with a variety of programs balk at the idea of expanding parental choice in education because they insist parents have enough options already. The last thing our elected officials should be doing is limiting educational freedom.
Hopefully Gov. Scott, who proposed a universal ESA plan back in 2010, will sign the bill into law soon.