Gov. Ron DeSantis signs ‘education choice’ bill into law, expanding private school scholarships for low-income students

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, Sec. Richard Corcoran join Florida governor at Hialeah private school for bill signing

Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session, Friday, April 30, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Florida’s “education choice” bill into law Tuesday during a ceremonial signing at a Catholic school in South Florida, expanding the eligibility for students to receive scholarship support to attend private school.

Joined by Florida Education Secretary Richard Corcoran and Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nunez, the governor signed House Bill 7045 at St. John the Apostle Catholic School in Hialeah.

He also spoke about the bill during a news conference in Jacksonville a few hours later.

The new bill removes the requirement for students to have had attended a public school first before transferring to a private school and be able to receive Gardiner Scholarship funds.

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Single-parent and widow Lena Salzer said she was denied scholarship assistance for her daughter Hanna Sophia because she had not previously attended a public school.

Salzer said she made a promise to her dying husband that she would provide the best education possible for their daughter.

“I was surprised how in the middle of a global pandemic, a single mother like me, was enabled to have the chance to receive (financial) support for my daughter’s education,” Salzer said. “Thankfully, this bill that Gov. DeSantis is signing into law today, removes that public school requirement, which means Hannah Sophia will be eligible to receive this scholarship and I will receive the financial help I need to keep her in the school where she feels safe.”

House Bill 7045 expands the criteria of other Florida scholarships as well.

“We really believe that empowering parents to be able to have the widest variety of educational choices for their kids, is a recipe for success. Obviously wealthy parents have -- the world is their oyster -- they can make whatever decisions they want and they can do it, but when you talk about low-income families, working-class families, they may not have the luxury of being able to get their get their kid in the school of their choice,” DeSantis said.

The bill expands what state scholarships can cover as part of a private education.

“We’ll be able to be dedicated to not just tuition, but to other things that impact education. Maybe you need a tutor, maybe you need a mentoring service, maybe you need some other wraparound services to go with the education,” DeSantis said. “These working-class families need that, too.”

The governor’s news conference comes one day after he addressed the growing algae blooms caused by Lake Okeechobee discharges during another media event in Hobe Sound. DeSantis and Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein are calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to change the way it manages the lake.

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