Flor⁠i⁠da Pol⁠i⁠⁠t⁠⁠i⁠cs: There’s No Ca⁠t⁠ch ⁠t⁠o Flor⁠i⁠da’s La⁠t⁠es⁠t⁠ (and Grea⁠t⁠es⁠t⁠) K-12 Scholarsh⁠i⁠ps

By: William Mattox / 2024

William Mattox




June 3, 2024

Unbundlers play an important role in helping to transform the K-12 education landscape. 

At the end of the last workshop, on the last day, of last week’s Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) Convention in Orlando, a young mom asked a question that had vexed many parents throughout the three-day conference.

“What’s the catch?” she asked. “This all sounds too good to be true.”

The mom had just heard a presentation about Florida’s new Personalized Education Program (PEP) scholarships, which give parents who curate their child’s education roughly $8,000 a year to spend on various learning resources, enrichment programs, and specialty courses.

The PEP scholarship, which is nearing the end of its inaugural year, has no catch. It’s a straightforward program for funding parent-directed K-12 education. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s only because most Americans have been conditioned to think education dollars should fund systems, not students.

Thankfully, Florida is changing all that. Not only does the Sunshine State now provide tuition vouchers for parents interested in sending their child to a private school, but Florida also provides Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) for parents who’d prefer to put together a customized education plan for their child, drawing upon multiple providers.

Think of the first group as “bundlers” and the second as “unbundlers.”  And think of all these families as deserving of per-pupil funding for their school-aged children. In fact, what Florida is now doing is allowing the per-pupil funds that would have been spent on a child in a public school to follow the child to the private school or unbundled learning programs chosen by Mom and Dad.

That hardly sounds radical. Or outlandish.

But it is still somewhat novel.

Indeed, Florida is one of a dozen or so states that have adopted universal ESA programs in recent years. In 2024, the Florida Legislature increased ESA funding to ensure that students with disabilities receive all the help they need. At the urging of Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Legislature also beat back an effort to impose some sweeping new restrictions on how ESA families could spend their education dollars.

DeSantis’ leadership on this issue no doubt helps to explain the enthusiastic welcome he received last week as the FPEA Convention’s keynote speaker. (The three-day event drew nearly 20,000 homeschoolers and unbundlers from all over the state.)

However, the Governor’s efforts to protect the freedom of unbundles should please public and private school parents as well. Unbundles are playing an important role in helping to transform the K-12 education landscape.

You see, unbundlers’ demand for specialty learning programs is bringing all sorts of new education providers into the K-12 marketplace. This means that schools don’t just have to compete with (a handful of) other schools anymore. They now have to compete with “a la carte” programs that only focus on certain subjects – much in the way that department stores have to compete with specialty stores that only sell shoes or hats or women’s wear.

When the K-12 education marketplace has lots and lots of providers vying for the business of both bundlers and unbundlers, two great things happen.  Robust competition pushes quality up and costs down.

Over the last two decades, Florida has seen the benefits of competition in K-12 education. As school choice options have expanded, K-12 learning gains in our state have risen dramatically – for all students, including those in public schools. Moreover, several recent studies have shown that Florida now delivers greater bang for the buck in education than any other state.

Happily, Florida’s new PEP scholarships for unbundlers promise to help our state achieve even better results. They promise to keep Florida #1 in delivering great education at a low cost.  That’s good news for children, parents, educators – and taxpayers!

Originally Found in Florida Politics.