Every student in Florida will be eligible for state-funded private school scholarships

WOKV | By Jake Stofan | June 27, 2023

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Every student in Florida will be eligible to receive state-funded private school scholarships starting Saturday and local private schools are preparing for an increase in applications as a result.

The scholarships can put a big dent in tuition costs, but in many cases won’t cover everything.

Here in Northeast Florida, Action News Jax looked at what some of the most prominent private schools charge for tuition and found prices ranged from $9,840 on the low end at Trinity Christian up to $30,900 at Episcopal.

According to the Florida Department of Education, the average Family Empowerment Scholarship award hovered around $7,700 last year.

“They could have a scholarship that’ll cover the majority of that expense. It’s really what has made private schools more affordable than ever,” Deacon Scott Conway, School Superintendent for the Diocese of St. Augustine, said.

Conway urged parents who want to take advantage of the scholarships to apply as soon as possible.

“If you are not looking for a school right now that you want to go to you might not have too many options left as those seats are filling up quick,” Conway said.

And while some are excited by the prospect of putting a dent in private school tuition, public school advocates like Andrew Spar with the Florida Education Association worry about the cost to taxpayers.

“Millionaires and billionaires now qualify for vouchers in the state of Florida,” Spar said.

FEA estimates taxpayers could be on the hook for $2.5 billion just for current private school students who now may take advantage of the scholarships.

It’s money Spar argued would be better spent in public schools.

“Our teachers and staff are not paid enough. We don’t have enough resources and programs in our schools to make sure that our students are getting the support they need academically,” Spar said.

The Florida Legislature estimated the expansion of the scholarships to cost the state $209 million in the first year, but it budgeted more than a billion dollars in the budget for the programs.

Only time will tell how many students take advantage of them.

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