Governor DeSantis Signs School Choice Bill at Christ the King Catholic School
May 11, 2021 • Savanna Kearney
Governor DeSantis greets Christ the King Catholic School students. (Photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Fran Ruchalski)

Surrounded by Catholic school students, parents and elected officials, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into legislation on Tuesday, May 11at Christ the King Catholic School, House Bill 7045, expanding scholarship eligibility for families and prioritizing military, foster and adopted students. Christ the King was recently recognized as the only Green School in the state of Florida by the U.S. Department of Education.

After a warm welcome from the school’s band, Deacon Scott Conway, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, welcomed the governor to the Diocese of St Augustine, after which, Father James Boddie, pastor of Christ the King Parish, lead the assembly in prayer. Governor DeSantis then shared the highlights of the new legislation.

“This bill will take steps to not only broaden opportunities for parents, particularly our low-income families, but also making these scholarships even better,” said Governor DeSantis. “This bill now provides access to the program for students in foster care and out-of-home care. We’re decreasing the waitlist for eligible students to benefit from scholarship programs. One of the things I’m most proud of as a military veteran who served at Naval Station Mayport is giving military families the ability to maximize their school choice options.”

The bill combines three existing voucher programs, Gardiner and McKay which provide vouchers for students with disabilities and a third that assists low-income families, into one program. It also raises the income threshold to be eligible for vouchers from 260 percent of the federal poverty level to 375 percent, or from $68,900 for a family of four to $99,375.

Governor DeSantis shares how House Bill 7045 will impact Florida families. (Photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Fran Ruchalski)

Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran thanked Governor DeSantis for his hard work in getting this bill passed.

“If we want to save this constitutional republic for another 230 years, we have got to give a world-class education to our students. We have got to give them that hope. We have got to give them that future. We can’t thank the governor enough for making Florida literally the beacon of light, not just in freedom but in education for this country,” said Corcoran.

Finally, local families shared how school choice and Florida scholarships have impacted their families’ lives. Maria Echevarria shared how despite being a single mom working multiple jobs, she previously surpassed the income threshold by just a few thousand dollars. Now, thanks to school choice expansion, she’s able to spend less time working and more time with her son. Jessica Bianchi and Juan Santana said that with the military family prioritization, their son and daughter can receive the education they not only need but deserve, from both Christ the King and Morning Star schools.

“We’re never satisfied. We’re always going to seek to do more,” said Governor DeSantis. “And today, we’re expanding opportunities for tens of thousands of families throughout the great state of Florida.”