Florida House OKs measure to expand program on special needs vouchers
The proposal would increase the number of students this school year while also placing a higher cap on the number of ESE students next year. The Senate is slated to vote on the issue Wednesday.
The state House on Tuesday unanimously passed a measure that would temporarily remove a cap on the number of students who can participate in a school voucher program for children with special needs.
The proposal, which passed the House 111-0, was among several lawmakers are considering this week during a special session in Tallahassee. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday.
“We made a commitment last session that we would do everything in our power to get this thing right," said Rep. Josie Tomkow, a Polk Republican who crafted the bill. "I believe full heartedly that's what we’re doing.”
The proposal (SB 4-C and HB 3C) would increase the number of students in the program for this school year while also placing a higher cap on the number of exceptional student education (ESE) students for next year.
The program, known as Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities. was capped at roughly 41,000 students for this school year.
The state Department of Education and what are known as scholarship funding organizations — nonprofits that administer vouchers for the state — would determine how many vouchers are available.
After this school year, the program would return to using a formula for determining capacity. That formula involves the overall number of ESE students.
Senate sponsor Jay Collins, R-Tampa, said 8,839 students are waiting to receive vouchers.
Information from WFSU's Adrian Andrews and News Service of Florida was used in this report.