Florida expanding voucher programs

By Matt Galka, Jason Mealey - Producer/assignment editor
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Florida is spending almost $300 million a year on voucher programs. House Speaker Will Weatherford wants massive expansion of the program which would nearly double the number of students who could attend private schools with state help.

"I would make low-income families the face of the movement," said Mark Pudlow of the Florida Education Association.

"It makes more sense for us if the state does more to help students all throughout the state rather than a select few that might go into an unregulated voucher program," said Pudlow.

 The vouchers are funded through businesses that receive tax credits for their contributions and serve about 60,000 students. The Senate dropped an expansion bill because the House won't agree to testing voucher students.

Supporters of the bill in the House say that this is a setback, but the fight is far from over.

Rep. Ritch Workman is a sponsor of a House expansion bill.  He said the move by the Senate was disappointing, but he still has hope.

"We are not laying over, we think it's the right thing to do, we think this particular bill will get some momentum here," said Workman.

The bill would have offered partial scholarships to families earning more than $60,000 and increased the money available to the program. 

The House Speaker Will Weatherford made voucher expansion one of his top legislative priorities and said the Senate's decision was "a shame."

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