Senate and House proposals to revamp Florida’s school-voucher programs are closer to aligning after the House Appropriations Committee approved the House version with changes Thursday. The bills (HB 7045 and SB 48) are ready to be considered by the full House and full Senate.
The House proposal would “dramatically increase” eligibility for voucher programs, according to bill sponsor Randy Fine, R-Brevard County. In part, it would consolidate the Gardiner and McKay scholarship programs, which serve students with special needs, with the Family Empowerment Scholarship program, which serves a broader population of low- to middle-income families. The House proposal would allow Family Empowerment Scholarship vouchers to be spent on things such as digital devices and internet expenses under changes adopted Thursday.
It also would align income eligibility for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program with the Family Empowerment program, increasing eligibility to a maximum of 300 percent of the federal poverty level. That means a family of four with a household income of $79,500 could qualify. “A huge number of families who presently do not qualify for these scholarships will be able to, giving more choice,” Fine said.
Opponents of the House bill argued that expanding voucher programs would erode funding for traditional public schools. Some also said private schools that receive vouchers aren’t accountable under the same standards as public schools. The Senate’s voucher plan still has marked differences from the House bill, despite the changes adopted Thursday.
The Senate proposal would consolidate the state’s five major voucher programs into two. One program would serve special needs students and would be known as the McKay-Gardiner Scholarship program. The Senate proposal also would establish all voucher programs as “education savings accounts” that could be spent on a wide range of expenses in addition to private school tuition.
Senate sponsor Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, told The News Service of Florida on Thursday the bills are getting closer. “It (the House) looks like it’s moving more in the direction of our bill. So, we still have some kinks to be worked out there. Because our bill is already ready for the floor, there’s really not a rush for us,” Diaz said. “It’s ready, sitting for that negotiation.”
Deborah Coffey says
NO! We should never be paying for children to get FUNDAMENTALIST educations. Their parents should foot those entire bills if they want their kids to grow up to be ISIS, Proud Bois, Nazis, etc.
Ironically (or not) this is coming to pass as genuinely religious church attendance is declining as steeply as shopping malls.
The fundamentalist “christ shuns” who elect the characters behind this scheme are the same fish that fill the collection plates of the jet set con artists running the buy-a-time-share-at-heaven beach televised mega churches. One may only wonder how long it will be before the multi level marketing of God hucksters peddling prosperity “christ shunsanity” start teaching that Jesus signed the Constitution in invisible ink to compliment their version of natural history based on the Flinstones cartoons.
trump, of course, will come to be “say ain’t trump” – who drank diet cola and pissed gasoline; to set fire to books, libs – anyone, or thing, it decided was wrong.
Merrill S Shapiro says
Scuttling these scholarships that send our money, public money, to private schools, would bring millions of dollars per year into the coffers of the Flagler County School Board and our local public schools. Nearly $1,000,000,000 each year goes to private, mostly religious schools, that are no better, and quite often much worse, than local public schools. Senator Manny Diaz makes a lot of money from the charter school “industry” and stands to gain a great deal from the weakening of our public schools.
Some of these private schools teach that slavery was a good thing, since it brought pagan Africans to our shores to be baptized in the name of Jesus. Some teach that the earth is 6,000 years old and trash the ideas of Darwinian Evolution. Some teach that LGBTQ+ are satanic, aberrant and evil. A dreadful idea all around!
Sheila Zinkerman says
The majority of private schools, including those that accept state sponsored scholarship schemes, are sectarian. These schemes fund religious and other private schools with taxpayer money and force citizens to fund and support religious institutions and their dogma whether they want to or not. Furthermore, at least 164 schools in Florida teach creationism as “science” while participating in the state’s tax credit scholarship schemes (Zack Kopplin,FFRF.) This is happening, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled the teaching of creationism as “science” in public schools to be unconstitutional (you can’t teach religion as truth in public schools.) The outcome? Public money is now being syphoned from public schools that educate children properly about evolution – and at the same time – public money is paying for creationism courses based on biblical teachings that have been banned in public schools (Public Money: HB 745 and SB 48.)
To taxpayers who honor the Separation of Church and State: don’t be complicit with this wrongdoing by remaining silent as your tax dollars are being funneled into private schools that not only teach creationism, but also teach children religious dogma at public expense. To religious, private schools, and misguided senators and representatives: Teach what you desire but keep your dogma off our public dollars.
Contact your Representatives and Senators. Say NO to HB 7045 and SB 48.