Expansion of school-voucher programs about to pass in Florida

DORAL, FL – The Florida House is about to pass an expansion of school-voucher programs that could make students eligible to receive taxpayer-backed scholarships under new bill proposals.

There are two versions of this expansion: The Florida House adopted its version of the bill (HB 1) on Thursday and positioned it for a likely vote on Friday. On the other hand, the Senate version (SB 202) approved its final committee Thursday and is ready to go to the full Senate.

Under both proposals, families would be eligible to receive vouchers if “the student is a resident of this state and is eligible to enroll in kindergarten through grade 12 in a public school in this state.” Current voucher programs include income-eligibility requirements.

In addition, both bills would allow families of home-schooled students to receive voucher funds, while the bills aim to also let families spend the money on a range of purchases beyond private-school tuition, including instructional materials, fees for certain exams and tutoring services.

But although both the House and the Senate have similar versions, they differ when it comes to the costs of the proposals.

A House staff analysis estimated the expansion would cost about $209.6 million, while a Senate analysis released this week estimated a price tag of roughly $646 million, reported CBS News.

Questions regarding costs of the school-voucher programs expansion were discussed during a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which voted 12-6 on Thursday to approve the Senate version.

The Senate panel approved a proposal that would require vouchers to be prioritized in a tiered system by income level. Students whose household incomes are less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $51,000 for a family of four, would be prioritized. After them, the priority would go to students whose family incomes are from 185 percent of the poverty level to 400 percent of the poverty level, or about $111,000 for a family of four.


Photo by: Unsplash.com

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