Sunday, June 16, 2024

Florida Voucher Program Problems Still Present, According to Some School Owners


Florida’s School Voucher Program: Successes and Challenges

Florida’s School Voucher Program Faces Challenges Despite Success Stories

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida’s newly expanded school voucher program has been hailed as a game changer by some, but for others, it has been marred by payment delays and communication failures.

At South Shore Montessori School near Tampa, founder and CEO Rohini Rustogi praises the program for helping more than half of her students pay for private school tuition. State vouchers, worth upwards of $8,000 per student, have significantly reduced costs for families like Jennifer Grocher and Kimberly Boswell Warbrough.

However, not all school operators are as enthusiastic. Juliet Sanomi, owner of Dickens Sanomi Academy in Broward County, describes the program as “a mess” due to ongoing payment delays. Some private schools for students with disabilities have faced the possibility of shutting down due to funding uncertainties.

Mary Jo Walsh, owner of the Mountaineer School of Autism in West Palm Beach, formed a coalition of schools dealing with payment issues. Despite Step Up for Students, the state contractor overseeing voucher distribution, fulfilling over 99% of tuition payments, some schools are still waiting for funds.

While the program has been deemed a success by many, there is a consensus that improvements are needed to ensure timely and efficient delivery of funds. Florida lawmakers have passed legislation setting deadlines for voucher payments in response to the challenges faced this year.

Despite the setbacks, school owners like Walsh remain optimistic about the program’s potential. “There’s a great need for a private option, and the voucher is there, and it is very helpful,” she said. “It’s just that it needs to be delivered in a timely manner.”

As Florida’s school voucher program continues to evolve, stakeholders are hopeful that ongoing issues will be addressed to ensure the program’s success for students and families.

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