SB 48 is a fast track effort to poach state funding from Florida public schools and to use tax-funded Education Savings Accounts/Debit Cards only on private vendors. SB 48 will be heard tomorrow, March 4, 2021 at 11:30A in Senate Appropriations; its final Senate committee stop on the third day of the 2021 session!
The bill converts the state’s 5 voucher programs into 2 Education Savings Accounts pre-loaded with designated public-school funds that entitles parents whose children do not attend public school, wide spending flexibility to reconstruct their education piecemeal. This represents another billion dollars meant for public education that will not be invested in public schools.
SB48 represents the sweeping expansion of a Florida Edu-Commerce Market where parents who accept these Education Savings Accounts/Debit Cards will be able to pay for any “component” of education a parent desires with zero oversight. (smart phones, gaming consoles, Ancestory.com, make-up tutorials)
Concerns about SB48:
- Promotes a radical transfer of funds on the level of a billion dollars from Florida’s public education budget onto an Education Savings Account/Debit Card
- Allows parents to use the Education Savings Account/Debit Card to pay for any pre-approved service, vendor or product of their “choice” with little oversight or required standards.
- Parents who accept the Education Savings Account/Debit Card give up their students right to a free and appropriate public education, meaning the money will not be spent in public schools.
- Parents who accept the Education Savings Account/Debit Card may find that the school or vendor of their “choice” charges far more than what is allocated on the card. Parents will be on the hook for the shortfall if the card is worth $7,500 and the tuition is $20,000. This creates the very inequity that SB 48 claims to “prevent.”
- Once the funds of an Education Savings Account/Debit Card are spent in the Edu-Commerce market, there is little recourse if vendors fail to deliver, meaning all of those public-school dollars are permanently lost.
- Florida is laboring under the economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. DeSantis and legislators are warning that there will be huge budget cuts to public education. This is not the time to embark on a poorly thought-out scheme to transfer public education dollars to unaccountable, unregulated to Education Savings Account/Debit Cards which hold little hope for the “high quality free public education” mandated in Article IX, section 1 of the Florida Constitution.