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DeSantis Signs School Voucher Expansion

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed a measure aimed at leading to a major expansion of school vouchers in Florida.

Passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature last month, the bill is the largest step in more than two decades of efforts by GOP leaders to offer vouchers to students.

Among other things, the bill increases an income threshold to 375% of the federal poverty level, meaning a family of four making nearly $100,000 a year could qualify for vouchers. DeSantis spoke before the signing at a South Florida Catholic school.

“We will be doubling down on our commitment to supporting our working families and making sure they have the ability to get their kids into schools of their choices,” said the governor.

It also strips away current restrictions, such as a requirement of previous enrollment in public schools, before students can receive vouchers.

Vouchers have long been one of the most-controversial issues in the state’s education system, with Democrats and many public-school teachers arguing that the scholarships drain money from the public system.

During legislative debate on the issue last month, State Representative Kamia Brown argued the state should hold private schools to the same accountability standards as public schools face.

“All this bill does,” Brown said, “is further the illusion of choice and reinforces the lack of accountability that plagues these voucher programs.”

In addition to expanding income guidelines, the bill also will boost the amount of funding attached to vouchers – which currently are the equivalent of 95% of the money that a public school would receive for a student. Under the new law, that goes to 100%.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.