Event Banner

Given educational freedom, Floridians rush to use K-12 scholarships for their students


“I pulled both my children and now have gotten $16,000 in scholarships to use toward private school where security and the quality of education is far superior.”


Over 400,000 students have applied for school choice scholarships in Florida since the Sunshine State earlier this year opened the program to all students regardless of income level.

Quick Facts

Florida has expanded its school choice scholarships and quickly received an influx of applications. The Governor’s Office said that 407,000 students have received scholarships for the 2023/24 school year, skyrocketing from last year’s total of approximately 264,400. The increase is due to the passing of a bill this spring, which opened the state’s scholarship program to all of Florida’s 3.4 million K-12 students.

Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up For Students, which runs Florida’s scholarship program, said that the demand for scholarships exceeds the supply of private schools. “A lot of the private schools are full already. I think demand has outstripped supply at the moment. So it will probably take a couple more years before there are enough seats out there,” Tuthill stated.

Many of the students want to attend private religious schools, which has led to the creation of waiting lists. Jim Rigg, superintendent of schools and cabinet secretary for education for the Archdiocese of Miami, explained,

“This will be our third consecutive year with enrollment increases. We are over 29,000 students in the archdiocesan-operated schools, which is the largest enrollment we’ve had for at least eight years. So we have recovered from the pandemic and then some in regards to enrollment and more and more of our schools are at capacity with waiting lists.”

Rigg says the expansion of the scholarship availability “is certainly part of why we think enrollment continues to increase. I don’t yet have any hard data on how many families are coming through us with scholarships yet. I suspect we’ll see a significant uptick, particularly in middle- and upper-income areas.”

Jacquelin Schuck, who is in her first year serving as the principal of St. Bernadette Catholic School and Church, noted, “I’ve been told we haven’t had a waiting list for years, so it’s really good. Step Up is definitely helping everyone.”

Hera Varmah, one of Florida’s first students to receive taxpayer scholarships, celebrated the news by saying, “The families have been waiting for this. And now that they’re able to access they’re using them.”

She continued, “I know exactly how it affects families. Even to this day I still see so many families that are just so happy and so proud that they are able to access these scholarships.”

As an example, Florida parent Elon Goldberg and his wife took their children out of public schools and enrolled them in a private school that matches the family’s values.

“I pulled both my children and now have gotten $16,000 in scholarships to use toward private school where security and the quality of education is far superior,” Goldberg explained. “Under the previous system, schools had no incentive to perform better. Now parents are able to utilize the scholarship in order to get their children a more robust education.”

Not everyone is supportive of the program, including Orange County School Board member Karen Castor Dentel, who claimed the program is a design to undermine public schools. “The public dollars that they have given to private schools, those are our public school dollars that they are now giving to people to go to a private school. Those are public school dollars they are now handling over to unaccountable private schools where you don’t have to have a qualified teacher,” she argued.

Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of school choice; in fact, it is one of the few issues that a clear majority of Americans across all racial and ethnic groups and political affiliation agree on. The only groups opposed to school choice are some public school teachers, teachers’ unions, and politicians.

School choice benefits all children and allows parents, who are forced to pay taxes that fund their school district, the ability to use those tax dollars on a school that benefits their child. The government has no right to trap children in failing, unsafe, or ideological propagandizing schools while the district drains money from their parents.

Contrary to what many like Castor Dentel argue, school choice programs take no money from public school districts, as they will still receive all of their funding. Their argument is that any allocation of money for scholarships is money “stolen” from public schools, which are not awarded that funding. Public schools still receive taxpayer funding because parents are required to pay the taxes whether their child attends the school or not. Most states that have implemented educational freedom have also increased funding for public schools or have enacted provisions that keep public schools sufficiently funded even if they lose students. Meanwhile, the school has fewer students it is required to teach and feed, which should give them more time and money to devote to each student.

The funds do not belong to the public schools. Those aren’t “collective” public dollars. They are taxpayer-provided dollars, money that mothers and fathers worked for and pay because they are required to, but with the promise that their child will receive a quality education in return. That promise has not been kept, and taxpayers ought to have the right to use the money in a way that provides the quality education their child deserves.

When school choice is opened, families show their love of freedom. Former students like Varmah, who were awarded scholarships, know the impact that these programs make. Parents like Goldberg know that private school and homeschool offer their children a better option than their local public schools.

If you live in a state like Florida that has school choice and you’re not happy with the public education available to your children, apply for scholarships. If you live in a state without scholarships and you want school choice, call your representatives, demand educational freedom, and give your children the opportunity they should have, not the second-rate education bureaucrats and teachers’ unions want them to have.

The Church must be involved in public discourse and influence. That’s why we write — so our readers can be equipped to understand and pursue righteous change in the world. For more timely, informative, and faith-based content, subscribe to the Standing for Freedom Center newsletter.

Not Just Conservative.

Christian conservative news and issues that matter. Curated just for you!

Tired of your social media feed being censored?

For more timely, informative, and faith-based content, subscribe to the Standing for Freedom Center Newsletter

Join us in our mission to secure the foundations of freedom for future generations
Donate Now
Completing this poll entitles you to receive communications from Liberty University free of charge.  You may opt out at any time.  You also agree to our Privacy Policy.