Ron DeSantis wants to nix Florida private school scholarship waitlist for low-income students


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On Monday, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his intention to end the waitlist for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship – a program that offers private school scholarships to low-income K-12 students in Florida.

His reason: The scholarship's waitlist has gotten out of control. In fact, in 2019, it already has a hefty waitlist of roughly 13,000 students.

"I would like to eliminate the waitlist so every parent has the ability to make these choices," DeSantis said during a stop at Pine Grove Boys Academy in Lauderhill Lakes, per the news website Florida Politics.

DeSantis noted hothatw nixing the waitlist would be a top priority of his during the upcoming legislative session.

"[Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.] fought to have everyone's rights recognized," DeSantis said, summoning the civil rights leader's legacy on King's namesake federal holiday. "I don't want to see barriers and limits to students reaching their full potential because that is not what our country is about. We will continue to carry on Dr. King's legacy and fight to ensure that nobody will be denied an opportunity for reasons out of their control."

The FTCS program was enacted in 2001 with the intention of expanding access to education for children of low-income families. It currently serves nearly 100,000 students in Florida and is administered by the state-approved nonprofit organization Step Up for Students, which also helps provide scholarships for students with certain special needs, students who are bullied or were victims of violence, and students who struggle with reading skills.

According to figures from Step Up for Students, two-thirds of the students who have been provided the scholarship are African American or Hispanic, with an average household income of $25,756.

In recent years, annual enrollment in the program has climbed. However, as the waitlist has continued to expand, so have fundraising gaps: In September, the Florida Department of Education reported that the FTCS was serving 98,039 students in 1,780 private schools – 3,603, or 3.5 percent, less than the same reporting period last year.

Meanwhile, in the previous 13 years, the average annual growth rate was nearly 20 percent, according to the Department of Education.

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