House plan would bolster school choice programs


A wide-ranging House bill filed Wednesday would increase the amount of money given to students under the state's de facto school-voucher program and make more children eligible for scholarships aimed at students with disabilities.

The legislation (HB 15), filed by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, would increase payments in the voucher-like Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

Payments for children in private elementary schools would be as much as 88 percent of the public school per-student funding amount.

It would be 92 percent for children in middle school and 96 percent for those in high school.

Maximum awards under the program now amount to 82 percent of the per-student funding for public schools.

The House bill also would make changes, similar to a Senate measure (SB 902), to the "Gardiner scholarships" meant to help parents pay for educational services for children with disabilities.

It would increase spending on the program to $200 million, make students with a wider range of conditions eligible and allow the scholarships to be used to pay for more services, including therapies involving music, art and horsemanship.