Voucher Expansion

TALLAHASSEE, Fla Voucher programs that help low-income students attend private schools in the state looked like they were on the fast track to expansion. But the legislation has hit huge roadblock.

Florida is spending almost 300 million dollars a year on voucher programs. House Speaker Will Weatherford wants massive expansion of the program which would nearly double the number of students who could attend private schools with state help. “I would make low-income families the face of the movement.”

The Florida Education Association, who is adamantly opposed to the expansion, released videos from a pro-voucher conference in 2011. Mark Pudlow says the FEA says the videos show the program is a money grab. “It makes more sense for us if the state does more to help students all throughout the state rather than a select few that might go into an unregulated voucher program.”

The vouchers are funded through businesses that receive tax credits for their contributions and serve about 60 thousand students. The Senate dropped an expansion bill because the House won’t agree to testing voucher students.

Supporters of the bill in the House say that this is a setback, but the fight is far from over.

Representative Ritch Workman is a sponsor of a House expansion bill. He said the move by the Senate was disappointing, but he still has hope. “We are not laying over, we think it’s the right thing to do, we think this particular bill will get some momentum here.”

The bill would have offered partial scholarships to families earning more than $60,000 and increased the money available to the program.

The House Speaker made voucher expansion one of his top legislative priorities and said the Senate’s decision was “a shame.”

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