TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FNN) – Senate Bill 48, Educational Scholarship Programs, is ready for consideration on the Senate floor after the Committee for Appropriations reviewed it favorably with 11 yeas and 8 nays.
The bill, authored by State Senator Manny Díaz, Jr. (R-Hialeah), expands student eligibility and parental choice for K-12 scholarship programs that serve students with unique abilities and students from lower-income households.
SB-48 merges two scholarship programs into one, the McKay-Gardiner Scholarship program, and expands the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) to incorporate the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program and the Hope Scholarship Program. Both the McKay-Gardiner and FES are funded by the Florida Education Finance Program.
Critics to the bill opposed the initial widening of the Family Empowerment program to families that are up to 300 per cent over the federal poverty line, currently at $26,200 for a family of four. The median household income in the state for 2019 is $56,000. The increase would be for a family of four with an income of $79,900.
The cap was proposed during the hearing to be amended to 185 percent by Senator Bobby Powell and supported by Marie Claire Lehman of Fund Education Now.
“By extending (the 185 percent cap) this year, we’re going to capture a lot of families who, due to the hard times, may temporarily be making less income and their children will be locked into these vouchers for the duration of their K-12 education, limiting the opportunity in future years for those in the 185 bracket because there will be less brackets available,” Lehman said during the hearing.
“For a program that is meant to support those with fewer means and the least opportunities, I think it is the wrong time to be increasing the cap at 300 percent,” she added.
The amendment did not receive enough votes during the hearing and was not adopted.
Juan Carlo Rodriguez is a politics and entertainment reporter for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org