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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Gov. DeSantis vetoes funding for free pads and tampons in schools

Pads and tampons
Pexels
Pads and tampons

The $6.4 million would have provided free menstrual products for K-12 students.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has vetoed funding that would have provided free pads and tampons to students through a pilot program, amidst almost $950 million in cuts to the state's yearly budget which totaled $116.5 billion.

The governor vetoed $6.4 million dollars in funding for the The Menstrual Hygiene Products Grant Program that would have provided free pads and tampons to kids in K-12 schools in Florida.

Democratic State Representative Anna Eskamani said she’s surprised the governor vetoed this item, as the pilot program had overwhelming bipartisan support.

“I just really encourage folks to realize that a budget speaks to our values. And when you veto an item like this, it definitely demonstrates that we don't as a state consider this issue to be important,” Eskamani said. “And we already provide the basic essential toilet paper in our school. There's no reason why we shouldn't also prioritize what is an essential basic item like menstruation products.”

Eskamani said she remembers being a 13-year-old girl, who had just lost her mom, and trying to navigate her first period, alone. She said having those products in school already, for free, would have made a world of difference.

“And I look back to my own childhood. I didn't have access to period products, until I was able to find the cash and then walk an hour or so to my Winn-Dixie to buy them,” Eskamani said. “And I can only imagine that if this was at my school available to me, how confident that would have been and just the importance of making sure that no other girl goes through what I went through in ensuring that these items are readily available for those who need it.”

Stats about period products in schools.
Alliance for Period Supplies
Stats about period products in schools.

In a statement regarding the governor's decision to cut this funding, spokesperson Julia Friedland said, "The governor reviews every bill and appropriation that comes across his desk and uses his authority under the Florida Constitution to make veto decisions that are in the best interest of the State of Florida."

According to the Alliance for Period Supplies, a nonprofit fighting for period parity, 27 states and Washington, DC require schools to provide menstrual products for students. Florida is not one of those states. Of those requiring access to menstrual products, only half provide funding.

The same group finds 1-in-4 students struggle to afford period products, and 1-in-3 women from low socioeconomic backgrounds will miss school, work or other events due to problems accessing these products.

Click here for a list of budget highlights.

And the full list of vetoed items can be found here.

Watch the budget signing here:

Copyright 2024 Central Florida Public Media

Danielle Prieur