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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Effort to expand voucher program moves forward



TALLAHASSEE -- A measure that would direct new public dollars to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and raise the value of each voucher gained momentum Tuesday.

The Senate's Finance and Tax committee approved the expansion program 4-1 after a passionate debate about the implications of diverting more tax dollars toward private schools. Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, cast the lone dissenting vote.

Proponents say voucher or similar programs help low-income parents relocate their children from failing public schools while critics argue that money is needed to improve those same struggling schools.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, said the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship levels the playing field between poor and wealthy families.

"Parents should be empowered to make those decisions regardless of their incomes," said Negron, who is sponsoring SB2126.

But Latha Krishnaiyer, a member of the Florida PTA, said parents want successful neighborhood schools.

"This money that goes away from public schools could be used to improve public schools," she said.
Roughly 25,000 students use the vouchers at more than 1,000 private schools.

Corporations can avoid paying their entire corporate tax bill or insurance premium tax bill by earmarking the money for vouchers. The legislation would add to the list the alcoholic beverage excise tax, direct pay sales and use tax, and the oil and gas severance tax.

Cristina Silva, Times staff writer


[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:54am]


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