Minutes after a dramatic 20-20 tie shot down Florida’s parent trigger bill, the state senate voted 32-8 – and virtually without debate – to support an expansion of tax credit scholarships for low-income students.
The bill, which cleared the state House on a 92-24 vote earlier this week, now heads to Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to sign it.
Florida’s tax credit scholarship program is the largest of its kind in the country, currently serving more than 38,000 students. It’s funded by corporations that receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit in return for contributions.
The bill increases the cap on contributions by $10.25 million next year, to a total of $229 million. The current cap is $175 million, but by law it was set to rise to $218.75 million next year.
The bill also makes several other changes to the program, including:
* Allowing students entering grades 2-5 and meeting the income guidelines to receive a scholarship even if they had not attended a public school in the prior year. Currently, only students entering K-1 can receive scholarships if they had not previously been in public school.
* Allowing private schools that enroll students with tax credit scholarships to administer the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which is the state’s main standardized test. Current law does not allow that.
* Allowing the state education commissioner to suspend or revoke a school that accepts tax credit scholarship students if it has “a previous pattern of failure to comply” with state regulations.