Lawmakers eying broader landscape for school vouchers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Florida lawmakers are taking a hard look at broadening a voucher program that would enable children from low-income families to afford a private education.

One of the programs, called Step Up for Students, is part of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarships that target children who receive either free or reduced lunches.

"Parents love the program, it gives them an option," said Cindy Rathburn, an administrator at the Foundation Academy in Jacksonville. The school located off San Pablo Road has almost 300 students, with a third attending the academy with Step Up for Student dollars. The program provides parents up to $4,900 to cover private school tuition.

Becki Couch, who chairs the Duval County School Board, said parents need to make choices carefully, knowing that private schools for example are not subject to statewide standardized testing to determine student achievement.

"It is difficult to compare how well they are doing 'apples to apples' when they don't have that kind of accountability measure to verify," said Coach.

Since the program started in 2002, more than 330,000 students have attended private school as through Florida Tax Credit Scholarships.


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