A Florida House panel approved a new measure Friday that combines two pieces of legislation that would expand school choice programs.
The House revised legislation to expand Florida’s tax credit scholarship program, and folded it into a new bill that combines it with an effort to create education savings accounts for students with disabilities.
The Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved the measure on a party-line vote. Republicans like Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, stressed that while they support investing in public schools, they want to expand other options, too.
“Every child has different needs,” she said. “With the choices that this bill adds today, we’re simply recognizing that.”
Democrats criticized the effort to merge the two school choice proposals after the tax credit scholarship legislation was withdrawn in the Senate last week. The revived House version does not include a contentious provision that would have allowed companies to donate sales-tax collections to the scholarship program. (The program is administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.)
While it has attracted opposition, the legislation to create savings accounts for students with disabilities has received bipartisan support in some committee votes. It also has the backing of top Republicans, including Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who is set to become Senate president later this year.
“I think putting these two voucher programs together is simply a Hail Mary, and I urge you to vote against this bill,” Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland, told the committee.
Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, said it made sense to combine the two plans into a measure that would give “two incredibly necessary pieces of legislation the hope of survival in the session.” He said he expects a vote on the House floor next week.