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Voucher Expansion Supported by Florida Senate

Tallahassee, Florida – The Senate on Tuesday advanced a proposal to provide all Florida students with state-sponsored vouchers that could be used for private school tuition and various other expenses, but opponents said the measure was a tradition. The lawsuit claimed that it would harm public schools.

The Senate Education PreK-12 Committee approved the bill by a vote of 9 to 3, in line with party policy (SB 202). The bill would abolish current eligibility requirements for vouchers, including household income limits.

Under the bill, families would be eligible to receive vouchers if “the student is a resident of this state and is eligible to attend grades kindergarten through grade 12 in a public school in this state.”

Democrats questioned the removal of income eligibility rules.

Senator Lori Berman (D-Boca Raton) asked if families with an annual income of $500,000 are eligible for vouchers.

“Well, the short answer is yes. We don’t fund parents, we fund students. That’s what this bill is,” said Tallahassee, who supports the bill. Commissioner Cory Simon, a state Republican, said.

In addition to expanding voucher eligibility, the proposal essentially creates what is known as an Education Savings Account, or ESA. Flexible spending accounts can be used to purchase tutoring services, educational materials, contract services offered by public schools, and more.

The measure will also allow families of homeschooled students to receive vouchers, limiting the number of homeschooled recipients for the following school year to 10,000. That number increases by 20,000 in each subsequent year.

R-Vero Beach Sen. Elling Grahl, who supported Tuesday’s bill, said families of homeschooled students should be allowed to receive the same voucher funds as students who spend money on private school tuition. I questioned whether

“I think the potential for abuse goes up significantly with the amount of dollars and keeping children at home,” Grall said.

Grall also proposed changes to address “accountability to taxpayers” and concerns for parents. Grall proposed to allow information about participating private schools to be posted online. Such information includes whether the school is accredited, whether it serves students with certain disabilities, and the curricula used in the school.

In response to Grall’s comments, Simon told the Florida news service after the meeting that he was open to potential change.

“I think her concerns are very valid and we will continue to sit down and look at how we can improve this bill,” Simon said.

Questions about the potential costs of the measures remained on Tuesday.The economic impact of the proposed changes has not been determined, Simon told reporters.

While much of Tuesday’s debate centered around vouchers, the bill also directs the state school board to recommend to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Congress how to “deregulate public schools.” is.

These recommendations are expected to be submitted before the 2024 legislative session.

The bill received support from several parents of students who receive Family Empowerment Scholarship vouchers for students with disabilities. These scholarships allow families to make a variety of purchases similar to educational savings accounts.

However, some critics have expressed concern about the possible erosion of traditional public schools. Lobbyist Kathy Boehme, representing the Florida Education Association Teachers Union, called for “financial responsibility.”

“When you fund private school students who have never been to public school, it comes out of public school money. Let’s go,” Boehme told the senator.

Democratic former state senator and CEO of the Florida Association of School Supervisors, Bill Montford, spoke out on behalf of the organization in support of the bill. “I’m not afraid of competition,” said the superintendent.

“Right now, 85% of parents choose public schools. Now, frankly, I think that will increase. I was.

A similar House action (HB 1) will be considered by the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday.

https://www.news4jax.com/news/florida/2023/02/22/voucher-expansion-backed-in-florida-senate/ Voucher Expansion Supported by Florida Senate

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