School voucher revamp set for hearing in Florida Senate

A controversial proposal that would revamp Florida’s school-voucher programs will get its first test Wednesday when it goes before the Senate Education Committee.

The proposal (SB 48), filed by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, has drawn support from Republican legislative leaders and opposition from Democrats.

It would expand eligibility for school-voucher programs, consolidate existing choice programs and allow parents to use taxpayer-backed education savings accounts for private schools and other costs.

The bill would expand the Family Empowerment Scholarship program, in part, by combining it with the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program.

Under the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, businesses receive tax credits for contributing money to nonprofit organizations that, in turn, provide scholarships to students to attend private schools.

Diaz’s measure also would fold the Hope Scholarship program, which allows bullied students to switch to different public schools or use taxpayer funds to go to private schools, into the Family Empowerment Scholarship program.

The Senate proposal also would establish the "Gardiner-McKay Scholarship," by combining two existing voucher programs that serve students with special needs.

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