Florida lawmakers seek to expand voucher eligibility to all K-12 students

Florida’s school voucher program could experience a major expansion under new legislation filed Thursday by House Republicans. Standing at a lectern with a sign reading

“Your Kids, Your Choice,” House Speaker Paul Renner introduced House Bill 1 to make vouchers available to all children in Florida who are the age to enter kindergarten through

twelfth grade — regardless of whether they ever attend a public school. Children from families whose household income level does not exceed 185% of the federal poverty

level, or are in foster care, would continue to get priority for the funding. The bill also would allow voucher recipients to use the funds for more than tuition at a

private school and transportation, as is currently in law. Families would be allowed to spend the money on home-schooling, college courses, private tutoring and specialized

testing such as Advanced Placement exams. among other expenses. “It’s about freedom and opportunity,” Renner said during his news conference. “We empower parents and

children to decide the education that meets their needs.” State Rep. Kaylee Tuck, who is chairperson of the House Choice and Innovation subcommittee, is carrying the bill.

She said the measure should allow families to customize education for their children. Renner predicted broad bipartisan support for the bill, which he said also should

clear the waiting list for students with special education needs to receive a state scholarship. As the Republicans held their press conference, Democrats prepared to blast

the proposal. They issued a statement saying they denounce the “defunding of public education,” with plans to speak publicly after Renner was done.