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Florida school voucher program up to 34,000 students

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After a change made during this year’s legislative session, a Florida school voucher program has expanded to nearly 34,000 students, a state official said this week.

The Family Empowerment Scholarship Program was created in 2019, with a cap of about 18,000 students for the 2019-2020 school year.

After almost all of those slots were filled, lawmakers this year made a change that effectively lifted the cap to about 46,000 students.

Dakeyan Graham, executive director of the Department of Education’s Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, told members of the State Board of Education this week that almost 34,000 students have enrolled and that the program is on a path to have about 37,000 students this year.

The program, which is funded directly from the state education budget, is designed to help lower-income and working-class families send children to private schools. It is part of more than two decades of efforts by state Republican leaders to expand school choice. But critics argue the state should focus on spending more money on public schools rather than expanding taxpayer-funded vouchers.

The Board of Education, which met Wednesday in St. Petersburg, approved a rule spelling out details of the program.