Florida would make every student eligible for vouchers to attend private school with taxpayer money under proposed legislation House Speaker Paul Renner said Thursday will be a priority for the session that begins in March.
The bill could greatly expand the state’s current voucher programs, but would give priority to low-income and special needs students ahead of wealthier families seeking help with private school tuition.
“We already have more school choice children, more people that are using choice options in this state than any other state in the country,” Renner said during a news conference. “We’re simply making sure no one’s left out.”
He said he’s not concerned that the legislation could create a mass exodus from public schools.
“Many people will stay right where they are because they’re happy, but this is really about making sure that there is increased competition,” Renner said.
Critics said the legislation will hurt public schools by sending money to private schools that aren’t held to the same accountability standards. House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell called the bill “alarming.”
“Our Republican-led Legislature continues to attack our public schools — our teachers — making it very difficult for Florida to compete with the rest of the nation,” Driskell said during a news conference. “This sets our state back.”