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In the States: Florida Proposes to Expand Private Voucher Program

The new “In the States” feature by Kaitlyn Brennan is a weekly update to keep members informed on state-level activities impacting the education and educator preparation community.

On Thursday, Republican leaders in the Florida state House unveiled new legislation that would significantly expand eligibility for the state’s programs offering students vouchers to attend private schools. The proposed changes to the voucher program would allow any student to be eligible for state-funded tuition at a private school of their choice regardless of income. It would also pay parents who homeschool children.  The legislation would also expand the voucher’s usages, allowing families to use the funds for private tutoring and specialized testing such as Advanced Placement exams, among other expenses.

House Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) spoke with reports on Thursday regarding the proposal saying: “This is about educational freedom not telling you how you’re going to raise your children, how you’re going to educate your children. It’s about making sure that public education means empowering every child to customize the education that best suits their needs.”

Democrats for their part are not in favor of the bill. House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) said on Thursday: “There’s nothing in this bill that I like … I don’t think there’s much that my caucus would find that is palatable because we continue to take public taxpayer dollars and use them for these private purposes in a way I believe is unconstitutional.”

Hearings are set to begin on the bill next week. The Senate does not have a companion bill at this time.