April 3, 2017
On Tuesday, two mothers of Catholic school students spoke before the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee during public comments regarding HB 15 by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Eustis). The measure would allow higher per-child scholarships to students from low-income families seeking to attend nonpublic high schools in the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program.
Tiffani Hinds and Jeannie Boggs each spoke from first-hand experiences with Florida school choice programs about the value of state scholarship programs in helping families meet the unique academic needs of their schoolchildren.
Through the help of FTC scholarships, the Hinds family sends three of their children to St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Panama City. Another child attends a special autism school in the state's McKay Scholarship Program. "One of the things that is most important to us is that our kids are getting what they need and their needs are being met," Hinds said. "We love the schools that they are in. The kids love learning, they love going to school whereas at one point in time, they were crying getting on the school bus."
The Boggs family has a son in the Gardiner Scholarship Program attending Trinity Catholic School in Tallahassee. The program for children with unique abilities has encouraged active collaboration and innovation between her family and the school. "This scholarship doesn't just support the student, but the families, teachers and allows for inclusive, appropriate education for the individual child," Boggs said.
HB 15 passed the subcommittee on a 12-3 vote with some bipartisan support. Prior to being amended by the subcommittee, the bill also addressed expansion of the McKay and Gardiner scholarships. The sponsor pledged to work to restore these scholarship expansion provisions to her bill at its next committee stop.
The similar SB 1314 by Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Lake Placid) is on the Senate Education Committee's agenda for Monday, April 3.