September 9, 2023

Judd Legum: Disney tickets, PS5s, and big-screen TVs: Florida parents exploit DeSantis’ school vouchers

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The expansion of vouchers in Florida leads to increasing levels of abuse of taxpayer dollars. Judd Legum of Popular Information looked inside a Facebook group for voucher parents that showed just how they are using the new Personalized Education Program (PEP).

In one exchange posted in a private Facebook group last month, a parent inquires if anyone has had luck getting passes to Disney World approved through the program. Another parent responds that she was able to get passes for Disney World and Universal Studios paid for with taxpayer funds.

The members of the group then discuss how to characterize unlimited annual and semi-annual passes in order to secure approval.

Voucher funds are available to many more students this academic year as a result of legislation signed by DeSantis last March. DeSantis hailed the new law as “the largest expansion of education choice in the history of these United States.” Previously, the voucher program was restricted mostly to low-income families. The money could only be used for private school tuition or transportation to an out-of-district public school. The new law eliminated the income caps and allowed thousands of homeschooled students to receive the approximately $8,000 voucher as an Educational Savings Account, which can be used for any approved expense.

The decisions about eligibility of expense are made by Step Up For Children and AAA Scholarship Foundation, two private companies hired to administer the program.

In another private Facebook message obtained by Popular Information, dated August 9, one parent laments that she has an “old” TV that “could really use replacing.” She asks whether she could use voucher funds to replace the TV if she was also buying a “screen and projector.” One group member tells her that she can buy a new 55-inch TV while another assures her she can buy “all three” —  the new TV, a screen, and a projector — with voucher funds.

In another August 2023 message, a parent sorts through the logistics of using taxpayer funds to buy “an $800 lego set for my kid for Christmas.”

Step Up for Students permits all voucher recipients to spend up to $400 annually on Legos.

Read the full piece for even more examples.


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