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Florida's school choice bill clears its first hurdle

The House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee meeting was packed with people speaking for and against a measure to expand "school choice" programs to nearly every K-12 student in Florida on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023.
Valerie Crowder
/
WFSU News
The House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee meeting was packed with people speaking for and against a measure to expand "school choice" programs to nearly every K-12 student in Florida on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023.

A plan to give every Florida student a stipend to pay for private school, homeschool or a variety of education services is moving through the legislature.

“The point of the bill is to expand options to all students regardless of income status,” said Republican Rep. Kaylee Tuck, who’s sponsoring the measure.

HB 1 — “School Choice” — passed its first committee stop on Thursday. It passed the House Subcommittee on Choice and Innovation (13 - 4) along party lines.

The measure removes the last restrictions on income from the Florida Empowerment Scholarship program.

Rep. Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville) tried to place a million-dollar cap on eligible income, but her amendment, failed.

“I just don’t think we should be subsidizing millionaires to take funding from public schools," Nixon said.

Another Nixon amendment would have stopped private schools that accept the vouchers from discriminating against minority, immigrant and LGBTQ students. It also failed.

The so-called “universal choice” bill has long been a goal for supporters of school choice. It’s likely to pass this session.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.