DeSantis vows to commit to expanding private school education for low-income families

Governor speaks in Lauderdale Lakes on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

LAUDERDALE LAKES, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis spent Monday morning at the First Baptist Church Piney Grove in Lauderdale Lakes, where he not only praised the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his leadership during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, but also committed to expanding private school education for low-income families.

It's a move he believes King would have approved of.

Students from Piney Grove Boys Academy sang songs at the church Monday and gave testimonies about the huge impact the school has had on their lives.

Piney Grove Boys Academy is a small, K-12 private Christian boys schools in Lauderdale Lakes.

Gov. Ron DeSantis looks on during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Piney Grove Boys Academy, Jan. 21, 2019, in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida.

Almost all the students were able to get in through the nonprofit group, Step Up for Students, which provides scholarships for low-income students to go to private school.

"I think Dr. King would be very pleased with what you're doing at this school," DeSantis said. 

Representatives from Step Up for Students said the average scholarship is between $6,000 and $7,000, which almost completely covers the cost of tuition for many families.

"Without the Step Up scholarship, keeping him at St. James is really hard. I work as a waitress and we are living paycheck to paycheck as we speak," Ghismide St. Jean, of North Miami, said. 

St. Jean told Local 10 News she is a single mother of a 6-year-old son.

"I chose St. James Catholic School in North Miami over the public schools because he suffers severe asthma and has a collapsed lung. Therefore, he requires that one-on-one attention," she said. 

Representatives from the nonprofit said about 10,000 children, however, are on the waiting list.

DeSantis said he wants to eliminate the waiting list so every child who applies for one of those scholarships can go to private school.

"Part of what I have to do as governor is look at what goes around in the state, identify these bright spots, shine a light on them and then let's try to build off the success that we're seeing in places like here," he said. "So, you have my word. I'm with you. I support what you're doing."

DeSantis said this issue will be a priority for him in the next legislative session. 

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