Florida House votes to expand school voucher program
Mar 7, 2012
The following article was published in The Florida Current on March 7, 2012:
House votes to expand school voucher program
By Gray Rohrer
A program allowing corporations to receive tax credits for funding vouchers for private schools will receive an extra $10.25 million under a bill passed by the House on Wednesday.
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program is capped at $175 million for the current fiscal year, and is scheduled to increase to $218.75 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. HB 859 would increase the cap to $229 million, and do away with random inspections for participating schools by the Department of Education.
The vouchers amount to about $4,000 per student, and only low-income students are eligible for the program. Proponents of the bill note that the vouchers cost less than the per-student funding for public schools, which is $6,224 for the current year.
Rep. Fred Costello, R-DeLand, argued that using less money for the scholarships actually helps public school students as well, since those students would otherwise be using public school resources at a greater cost.
“This is an outstanding bill for all of our students,” Costello said.
Several Democrats decried the bill, though, as siphoning off money that would otherwise go to public schools. Republicans fended off an amendment from Rep. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, that would have allowed corporations to direct their tax credits for the program to public schools.
“If a parent wants to send their child to a private school, let ‘em. Just don’t use my tax dollars to pay for it,” said Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami.
The bill now heads to the Senate, which must pass the bill in the final two days of the legislative session before it can go to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.
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