Minority Office — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 27, 2023
STATEMENT: Florida Senate Democrats Respond to the Governor’s Signing of the Universal Private School Voucher bill
In response to the Governor signing HB 1: Education, a bill that could have a negative impact on Florida's public schools and in part offers education vouchers for the wealthy, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book (D-Davie), Senator Tracie Davis (D-Jacksonville), Senator Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) and Senator Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando) offered the following statements:
Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book (D-Davie) said, “The State of Florida shouldn’t be using taxpayer dollars to fund private school education for millionaires’ — and even billionaires’ — kids…but despite Democrats’ best efforts, that’s exactly what’s happening. Everyday people in this state deserve better than free handouts for the excessively wealthy designed to defund public schools while also keeping educators impoverished by robbing district funds. Florida's government should be focused on transforming public schools to be the best they can be, instead of giving a leg up to unaccountable and unregulated private schools with no rules."
Senator Tracie Davis (D-Jacksonville) said, “This bill creates an uneven playing field for schools, bolstering private and charter schools at the expense of the public schools, and even more offensively, at the expense of hundreds of thousands of children. These vouchers initially were intended to help disadvantaged or special needs families to bridge a gap of affordability and accessibility, and in 20 years, we have seen significant evidence to the opposite. Instead of addressing the flaws with the initial voucher system, instead of adding guardrails to this unprecedented expansion, we’re simply giving it a blank check.
We are choosing to use our children as pawns in this experiment with no idea at the true cost - monetarily or academically. Parents have the right to worry about their children, want the best for them, and the right to choose. The Legislature, however, does not have the right to pass disingenuous, messy legislation that could have untold effects on their ability to put food on the table.”
Senator Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) said, ““Every member of the Legislature who voted for universal private school vouchers voted for millions of dollars in cuts to their school districts’ budgets. Florida has limited resources, it is a zero-sum game. We already rank 49th in per pupil spending in our K-12 schools. Pouring $4 billion into a voucher program with no income eligibly caps isn’t the answer to improve education opportunities for our students.”
Senator Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando) said, “Though nearly 90% of parents will choose to send their children to traditional public schools that desperately needed additional funding, the Legislature pushed through and the Governor signed a bill to provide vouchers to all students regardless of income. There is no concrete information on the impact this will have on traditional public school funding. This is reckless and is part of a continuing effort to privatize education in the state of Florida. Providing highly significant funding to these experimental private schools will not work for the benefit of students who have been shown to return to traditional public schools within two years with major learning losses.”