1. Gradebook

Koch group launches TV ad calling for universal school vouchers

The idea would transform the public education system and the way it’s been funded for generations.
A screen grab from the Koch group's TV ad pushing for universal school vouchers, also called "education scholarship accounts" | YouTube
A screen grab from the Koch group's TV ad pushing for universal school vouchers, also called "education scholarship accounts" | YouTube
Published Mar. 4, 2019

The Legislative session doesn’t kick off until Tuesday but it’s already clear that the education policy debate will be different this year. With a new, conservative state Supreme Court and Gov. Ron DeSantis pushing for allowing tax dollars to subsidize students going to private schools, many long-time education advocates said 2019 feels like a turning point in favor of the school choice movement.

One major advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, which is supported by billionaire Charles Koch, launched TV ads on Monday that will run in Tallahassee for two weeks to convince lawmakers to support universal school vouchers, also called “education savings accounts" or “education scholarship accounts.”

This policy would upend the way school has been funded and conceived of for generations. It would mean the state grants vouchers to all Florida families so they can use public money to attend school wherever they choose, whether that be a district, charter or private school, or even homeschooling.

That ambitious goal may not be accomplished this year, but the group is hoping it’s in the cards for the near future. Americans for Prosperity is also aiming for bipartisan appeal, at a time when the Koch network is striving to be less partisan after years of being associated chiefly with Republicans.

The ad uses sound bytes from Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Gov. Jeb Bush and presidents Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump all speaking generally about the need to reform education.

“Every student deserves access to educational opportunity,” the ad’s narrator says at the end of the 30-second spot. “Ask your legislator to create education scholarship accounts for every student.”

The ad’s release on Monday coincided with a “Day of Action” announced by the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union that has long been opposed to vouchers. The union said teachers and school staff would be holding rallies across the state to advocate to lawmakers to adequately fund district schools.


  1. More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK]
  2. Hudson High student Kaitlyn Helzer introduces herself to a curious corn snake during the Nature Coast Envirothon, held Feb. 19 at Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Sumter County. Students from Pasco, Hernando, Sumter and Citrus counties tested their knowledge on aquatics, forestry, soils and wildlife while vying for a spot at state competition. [MICHELE MILLER  |  Times]
  3. Incoming Superintendent Addison Davis (center) and School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) sign Davis' contract with the Hillsborough County School District after it was unanimously approved by the school board on February 18, 2020. [JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ  |  Times]
  4. Teacher Dequita Parker guides youngsters to lunch from the playground Sept. 20 at the PromiseLand Early Childhood Education Center in Tampa.
  5. Associate professor of biology Caitlin Gille leads the Pasco-Hernando State College faculty union, which challenged the school's public comment rules.  (Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Gille)
  6. Sen. Audrey Gibson, leader of the Florida Senate Democrats, introduces a bill in January to refocus the $900 million proposed for teacher pay into salaries for all public school employees. It's just one of many ideas still floating around Tallahassee relating to educator raises. [The Florida Channel]
  7. A small group of students were rushed inside a bus at dismissal at AMIKids on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 in Pinellas Park.  [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  8. School employees Jarvis Delon West, left, and Dontae Antonio Thomas, right, were both arrested in connection with the assault and injury of a 12-year-old boy who attended AMIkids in Pinellas Park. The state shut the school down. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  9. First Lady Casey DeSantis talks with students during the Hope for Healing a mental and substance abuse initiative held Roland Park K-8 School in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said state officials worked closely with DeSantis to craft the new rule. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
  10. In this Feb. 14, 2018, photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland after a shooter opened fire on the campus. [MIKE STOCKER  |  AP]
  11. Pinellas County School Board member Carol Cook, left, celebrates her reelection to her fifth term in 2016. If ultimately approved, a term limits proposal would force Florida's school board members out after two consecutive terms.
  12. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini fields questions on the House floor on Feb. 19, 2020, about his proposal to ask voters to limit school board member terms. [The Florida Channel]