Senate Bill 962 by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Ft. Myers, passed the Senate Education Pre-K – 12 Committee today. The bill relates to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, created by the Florida Legislature in 2001 to help provide low-income students with opportunities to attend private schools through tax credits provided to contributing companies doing business in Florida. Benacquisto hopes her bill will help the program keep pace with the increasing demand from low-income families.
“We’ve seen continued growth and participation in the scholarship program in recent years,” said Benacquisto. “The waiting list reached 13,000 low-income students at one point for the 2011-2012 school year. The need is there, and we’d like to see this program continue to be a success for Florida’s children.”
Current law allows for an increase in the cap by 25 percent in any year after 90 percent of the cap is reached. SB 962 will allow a one-time extra bump in the statewide tax credit cap in 2012-2013, from $218.7 million to $250 million, which constitutes an additional increase of 14 percent. It would allow the program to serve an additional 6,500 low-income students and, in total, serve an estimated 55,543 students during the 2012-2013 school year.
“At the core of this bill, we seek to meet the overwhelming increase in demand from low-income families who qualify for the scholarship program and seek a quality, affordable education for their children,” Benacquisto told her fellow committee members.
Joining Senator Benacquisto in support as co-sponsors of SB 962 are Democratic Senator Gary Siplin and a total of 17 other Senate Republicans. The bill will be heard next in the Senate Budget Committee.