StudentsFirst applauds resurgence of school voucher bill in Senate

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Bipartisan education reform advocates at StudentsFirst Florida are encouraged by the resurgence of a Senate plan expanding tax-funded vouchers for students of low-income families to attend private schools.

Earlier in the session, a similar voucher expansion bill failed to gain traction in the Senate, and the issue was thought to be dead on arrival.

Last week, Sen. Bill Galvano was able to amend bill SB 1512 in Appropriations, which would raise accountability and testing requirements for private schools receiving money from the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

“Senator Galvano’s amendment opens a window of opportunity for the House and Senate to reach a compromise on the tax credit scholarships expansion and help low-income children receive a better education,” said StudentsFirst spokesperson Lane Wright in a statement issued on Monday.

“Both proposals would raise the amount of the scholarship and prioritize low-income students. In addition to keeping those provisions intact, legislators should ensure that families can keep their scholarships even if their pay fluctuates above the current qualification line.

“This will open up greater options to students who need it most and preserve stability in their education.”

Galvano’s amendments also allow the expansion of the tax-credit vouchers by dropping the requirement that receiving scholarship money first attend a public school prior to eligibility.

The Bradenton Republican is also looking to extend scholarships to foster children.

StudentsFirst is the education reform organization founded in 2011 by former Washington D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Now, the group includes more than 100,000 parents, teachers, small-business owners and concerned citizens who are pushing for the best schools and teachers for every student.

Over the past two years, StudentsFirst, which supports school choice, merit pay and accountability for teachers, has aggressively amplified its Florida operations; Rhee herself appeared in Tallahassee to promote parent-trigger bills in 2013.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.