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New voucher program draws 18,000 students

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A school-voucher program approved this spring by state lawmakers has drawn 18,000 students in its first year, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced Friday.

The program, known as the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program, is a major expansion of school vouchers and drew heavy debate during the 2019 legislative session.

Lawmakers included a first-year cap of 18,000 students who could receive the taxpayer-funded scholarships to attend private schools.

DeSantis and Corcoran touted reaching that cap Friday, saying the program will help low-income and working-class students.

"The Family Empowerment Scholarship Program expands education opportunities for families with limited financial resources and places our students in environments where they can thrive," DeSantis said in a prepared statement. "I look forward to the continued success of this program."

Many Democrats, however, have criticized the program, saying it strips money from public schools while requiring little accountability for private schools.