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FEA: New Voucher Plan Will 'Drain' $1B From Public Schools Over 5 Years

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Researchers with state teachers’ union the Florida Education Association are estimating Florida’s new plan for a private school voucher program will come with a huge price tag. 

The voucher program is meant to pay for families of middle to low income students to enroll their kids in private schools. The FEA says that will, in its words, “divert” more than $1 billion from public schools’ main funding mechanism, the Florida Education Finance Program, over five years.

The teachers’ union says the voucher plan, dubbed the Family Empowerment Scholarship, will take nearly $6 million dollars from Leon County in the same time period.

Fedrick Ingram, the FEA's president, has been an outspoken critic of the plan.

“Classes will become even more overcrowded, making it harder for students to learn,"  Ingram said in a news release Thursday. "As a result of this drain on school funds, Florida districts will be forced to cut back on music, art, Advanced Placement courses and other essential programs.”

The study assumes the cap for enrollment, which is starting at 18,000 students, will increase over time – leading to increased costs. Lawmakers who backed the measure said the voucher program is intended to grow.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.