The Florida House of Representatives has passed a monumental school choice expansion.
“We are expanding opportunities for parents who do not have the fiscal resources to choose a private school, to choose that too,” Republican state Rep. Byron Donalds of Naples said, according to WJXT.
“This is the type of innovation that leads to better outcomes for all children, no matter where they grow up and no matter how much money they have.”
The vote on the bill was 81-39, with all of Florida’s Republican House members in support as well as eight Democrats. The legislation now goes to the Florida state Senate.
Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora said the expansion of school choice that the bill funds is the right thing for the families of Florida.
“I’m going to do what I think is right for our students, I’m going to do what I think is right for our teachers, but I’m not going to expect a thank you from people who oppose choice education,” Sullivan, who chairs the House Education Committee, said, according to Florida Politics.
“Because it’s never going to be enough,” she said.
House Bill 7067 restructures part of Florida’s existing school choice program, which could lead to nearly 29,000 more children being awarded vouchers through Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship Program, according to WJXT. The Senate has a companion bill, Senate Bill 1220, which is focused on the same ends, although there are slight differences between the two proposals.
Democrats opposed to the voucher expansion said public schools deserve the funding.
“It’s quite problematic for us to continue to expand the voucher structure, when we have left behind traditional public schools for far too long,” Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando said.
Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship Program was set to increase in the 2020-21 school year, but only by about 7,225 students, using a formula based on the state’s public school population. The new bill quadruples potential enrollment in the program.
Not all Democrats opposed the measure.
“It’s an honorable thing to empower parents and give parents an opportunity to be able to put their children in places where it is safe, where it is conducive for teaching and learning,” Democratic state Rep. James Bush of Miami said.
Democratic state Rep. Kimberly Daniels of Jacksonville, who also supported the bill, pushed back against claims that private schools could discriminate against LGBTQ students.
Daniels said Democrats employ “elitism” by trying to discriminate against faith-based private schools.
“You cannot stop discrimination by discrimination,” she said, according to the Washington Examiner.
“We cannot receive rights by taking the rights of others. In our being inclusive, we are being exclusive.”
The net result, she said, is that some Democrats are hurting lower-income families.
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