HB 653 would increase the current cap by $30 million each year over the next five years, from $88 million now to $238 million in 2012. It would also increase the amount of individual corporate tax-credit vouchers from $3,750 to $4,500.
Voucher opponents were quick to pounce. "Imagine what they'd do ... if it wasn't bad economic times," Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, told The Gradebook this morning. "You're in a situation where you're cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the education budget because of lower-than-anticipate revenues ... yet we're going to expand corporate vouchers."
Voucher supporters argued the opposite. Since it costs the state less money to pay for a voucher than to support the same student in a public school, "We're saving the money," said Denise Lasher, spokeswoman for Step Up for Students, a group that advocates for tax-credit vouchers. The legislation "helps with the budget crisis ... and class size."
Traviesa's bill proposes that the voucher amount be annually adjusted to 62 percent of what the state spends per pupil. It would also offer private schools that accept such vouchers a $200-per-student premium if at least 95 percent of their voucher students take the FCAT. Currently, those students - about 20,000 in all - do not have to take the FCAT.