Under the proposal passed Friday, even millionaires and billionaires could get public dollars to send their kids to private schools.
GOP lawmakers rolled over Democrats in the state House, pushing a massive voucher, or “scholarship” program, that would open the door more widely then ever for families to get public dollars for a private school education in Florida.
Any student who’s a resident in Florida and eligible to enroll in K-12 public schools could participate. Even millionaires and billionaires could do so, though in earlier years, that was generally not an option on the education front.
“We are redirecting money to people who don’t need the money. Why are we doing this? Why are we doing this right now?” said Rep. Dotie Joseph, of Miami-Dade.
Democrats argued strenuously about the voucher expansion, HB 1, saying that Florida’s public school system, with some 3 million students, needs help.
“Our public schools are not broken, they are just unsupported and they’re constantly on attack,” said Rep. Jervonte “Tae” Edmonds, representing part of Palm Beach County. “We have more money than some countries in this world.”
He added, “When are we going to devise a plan to not destroy public schools but support public schools.”
Despite the concerns by Democrats, GOP lawmakers easily supported the voucher expansion.
The vote was 83-27 on Friday.
The state Senate would have to approve the legislation, as would Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has grappled with the idea of super-wealthy families getting the vouchers.
In the current legislation, the expanded voucher program would still provide priority to children from low-income to middle-income families.
Still, State Rep. Anna Eskamani, of Orlando, described what’s happening in Florida: Huge privatization, mass privatization, for Florida’s education system.
This is a developing story which will be updated.
This report appeared on the website of the Florida Phoenix, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to coverage of state government and politics from Tallahassee.