Florida House speaker wants to expand school voucher program

Jan 19, 2023, 12:39 AM | Updated: 2:45 pm
FILE - Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, opens a Special Session, on Dec. 12, 2022, ...

FILE - Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, opens a Special Session, on Dec. 12, 2022, at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. Renner announced Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, that one of his priorities during the legislative session that begins in March will be to expand a school voucher program for special needs students. (AP Photo/Phil Sears, File)

(AP Photo/Phil Sears, File)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — 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.”

Several states have been more aggressively seeking to expand school choice laws in the past two years, including Iowa, where Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds made vouchers for all a priority in her Condition of the State address last week.

Florida began its voucher program more than two decades ago under Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and has passed several laws to expand it over the next three Republican administrations, including two years ago when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill raising income levels to receive vouchers.

If passed, Renner said it would eliminate a waiting list for vouchers for special needs children, though he didn’t know how large the waiting list is and the legislation doesn’t have a price tag.

The legislation was designated House Bill 1, which indicates its importance to the speaker. The Legislature will begin its annual 60-day session March 7.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in Nov. 2022, a...
Associated Press

News groups ask Idaho Supreme Court to reject University slayer gag order

Thirty news organizations have asked the Idaho Supreme Court to overturn a gag order in a case against a man accused of stabbing four students to death.
13 hours ago
Nathan Chasing Horse stands in court. Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, in North Las Vegas, Nev. Nathan Chasing...
Associated Press

‘Dances With Wolves’ actor charged in 2018 rape in PNW

Canadian police confirmed Tuesday they are pursuing a criminal case against a former "Dances With Wolves" actor who was arrested last week and charged in Nevada with sexually abusing and trafficking Indigenous women and girls.
13 hours ago
FILE - In this image from video released and partially redacted by the city of Memphis, Tenn., Tyre...
Associated Press

Tyre Nichols documents: Officer never explained stop to him

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) — The officer who pulled Tyre Nichols from his car before police fatally beat him never explained why he was being stopped, newly released documents show, and emerging reports from Memphis residents suggest that was common. Documents released Tuesday by the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission blast the conduct of […]
2 days ago
Men harvest avocados at an orchard in Santa Ana Zirosto, Michoacan state, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 26...
Associated Press

Mexican avocados shipped for Super Bowl named in complaint

MEXICO CITY (AP) — One year after the Super Bowl season was marred by a ban on Mexican avocado shipments, another threat has emerged: An environmental complaint that avocado growers are destroying forests that provide critical habitat for monarch butterflies and other creatures. The complaint, filed with the trilateral Commission for Environmental Cooperation, part of […]
2 days ago
People and rescue teams search for people in destroyed buildings in Elbistan, southern Turkey, Wedn...
Associated Press

How long can people survive in the rubble of an earthquake?

How long can trapped people survive in the rubble of an earthquake? Up to a week or more, experts say, but it depends on their injuries, how they are trapped and weather conditions. Search teams from around the world have joined local emergency personnel in Turkey and Syria to look for victims from this week’s […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for March delivery rose $1.33 to $78.47 a barrel Wednesday. Brent crude for April delivery rose $1.40 to $85.09 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline for March delivery was unchanged at $2.46 a gallon. March heating oil fell 1 cent to $2.89 a gallon. March natural gas fell 18 cents to $2.40 per […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Florida House speaker wants to expand school voucher program