Proposed law would cut funding to private Florida voucher schools that discriminate against students


  • Photo via Anna V. Eskamani campaign
An Orlando lawmaker aims to stop private voucher schools from discriminating against students across the state.

The new bill filed Friday by Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, would make private voucher schools comply with discrimination practices, ensuring they "may not deny enrollment to a student based on the student's race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity."

Right now, they can.

As reported by Orlando Sentinel, private schools across Florida, like Trinity Christian Academy in Deltona, receive millions worth of public vouchers. But they can discriminate against students, refusing to admit those who are disabled or LGBTQ.

The academy's official policy had stated students must have "no emotional disorders" or conditions like autism, Aspergers and Down syndrome. The school can expel students for being gay.

Eskamani, in a prepared statement Monday, said that the schools should be held accountable for "offensive policies."

“No publicly funded school should be allowed to discriminate,”she said. “We have seen bipartisan support for policies that support LGBTQ people and those who live with disabilities, and I hope my legislative colleagues would agree that this country has moved beyond the notion of ‘separate but equal’ and that we can — at the very least— hold private voucher schools accountable to these offensive and discriminatory practices.”

Under Eskamani's proposed bill, schools that don't change their policy will see their fund payments suspended or lose eligibility all together.

Along with discrimination policies, the law would seek to also require more stringent teacher qualifications in such schools. Teachers would now have to have a baccalaureate or higher degrees, plus 3 years of teaching experience in public or private schools.

As we previously reported, last May Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial voucher bill (SB7070), which allows a very small percentage of Florida students (18,000 kids) to attend private, charter and religious schools using $130 million in public tax dollars.

This then leaves the state’s remaining 2.8 million other students in drastically underfunded school systems that already rank near the bottom in the country for per student spending.

In total, Tampa Bay area public schools are expected to lose $125,455,531 in funding, according to the The Florida Education Association.

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