Voucher bill clears Senate committee
It wasn't unanimous, but the Senate Pre-K-12 Education Committee approved a bill (SB 1440) to greatly expand the number of students who may participate in the Corporate Income Tax Credit Scholarship, which are often referred to as vouchers although technically they aren't.
The bill boasts broad, bipartisan support, with senators including incoming Democratic leader Al Lawson (left) and former Republican Senate president Jim King (right) among the 15 sponsors (we've been told that's more sponsors than any other bill before the Senate). Speakers in favor of the legislation included a single white dad from Jacksonville and a single black mom from Miami, both of whom talked about the value that the program has brought to their children's education.
Sen. Don Gaetz, the bill's primary sponsor, said the legislation if approved would save the state money on both operational and capital expenses in public education. The private schools accepting the scholarships take less money per student than the public schools ($3,750 vs. $7,200), he noted, and they make it so that the public schools don't have to provide seats for the kids.
He faced some questions from Sen. Ted Deutch, a Delray Beach Democrat, about why students in the private schools don't have to meet the Sunshine State Standards or take the FCAT. Sen. Larcenia Bullard, a Miami Democrat, also raised concerns about the state sending money to private schools when teachers are threatened with no raises in the coming year. The Florida Education Association came down firmly against the bill.
But Gaetz insisted the bill was about doing right by students, not by the system, as he closed his arguments in favor. That position won the day.