Florida's school voucher program expands

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's school voucher program is no longer just for low income families. It's been expanded to now include the middle-class. This comes at a cost to tax-payers and some say public schools will pay the ultimate price.

Colleen Wood has two children that attend one of Florida's highest ranking public school districts; St. John's County. She's also the founder of '50th No More', a grassroots organization that fights against budget cuts to the state's public schools.

"The voucher expansion diverts money that should be going to the general revenue," said Wood. "And some of that would be coming to public education."

Wood is among a large group of people from education and parent groups around the state that do not believe in the voucher expansion set to go into effect in 2016. The program in the past has been limited to low-income families but following Governor Rick Scott's signature, soon those who earn more than $60,000 annually could receive partial scholarships.

Jon East with Step Up for Students, a tax credit program that helps to award the vouchers says right now they're slammed. More than 110,000 students have already applied for the fall semester. So how will the group now handle additional requests? East says the cap on tax credits allowed currently stands at $358 million but that cap can increase under a demonstration of need.

"It is going to have a direct financial impact on districts," said Wood. "Private education is great but it's not the constitutionally mandated duty of the state to provide for private education."

East says he would be surprised if any middle-class students are given a voucher the first year of the program.


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