Voucher bill is filed
After last month’s OPPAGA report, was there any doubt that Florida lawmakers would push for a voucher expansion this year? HB 453, filed today by Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, would do that in several key ways.
It would expand the potential funding base for the Florida Corporate Income Tax Credit Scholarship Program by including insurance premium tax credits and, more important, some sales tax credits. It was not immediately clear how much broader the funding base would be with those additions.
The bill would also require -– if a scholarship funding organization requests it -- that the Florida Department of Education notify all families in a particular district whose children are eligible for free or reduced lunch that they are eligible for tax credit scholarships. The SFO would pick up the tab if it’s a communication beyond “any normal correspondence with eligible households.”
“We want to make sure if you are a student that meets these guidelines in Florida, that you know we’re an option,” Jon East, spokesman for the Florida School Choice Fund, told the Gradebook.
The bill does not address the cap on contributions, which was raised from $88-million to $118-million last year and drew opposition from most Democrats. East said the organization has no plans to push for a cap increase this year.
But the proposed changes pave the way for that, said Damien Filer, political director for the anti-voucher Progress Florida. “If memory serves, about two days ago we cut half a billion dollars from public education in this state,” he said. “Why would we be spending our time looking for even more ways to take money out of public schools?”
No Senate companion bill has been filed yet, but East said one is expected to be filed by Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. Weatherford could not be immediately reached for comment.