Bills on standards, school choice march on
A bill to expand Florida's corporate income tax credit scholarship program to thousands more low-income students sailed through its final Senate committee stop on its way to the floor. Only Sen. Larcenia Bullard, a Miami Democrat, opposed the measure, saying she could not condone taking money away from the public school system at a time when budgets already are forcing major reductions in education funding.
But sponsor Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, insisted that the proposal would not take money from schools. In fact, he said, it would save the state millions as it funds the scholarships at 60 percent of the cost of per-student funding for public schools. Moreover, he added, an amendment by Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, would limit the program budget to its 2009-10 level until further analysis can be completed.
"This is not an effort to provide help to the elite," Gaetz said. "This is not some way to benefit private schools. ... Many of these families reach into their own pockets and do second jobs and third jobs to be sure they can take advantage of the program."
He urged the Education Pre-K-12 Appropriations Committee to give more poor families the opportunity to have real education choices. All but Bullard voted for the bill.
The committee also unanimously approved a bill that would set the "Sunshine State Standards 2.0" similar to a measure promoted in the House. The bill promotes end-of-course exams for high school students and also would ban schools from suspending the regular curriculum to teach FCAT skills.
To see the full meeting packet, click here.