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Private school vouchers for millionaires draws criticism from governor and Democratic lawmakers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Legislation offering universal private school vouchers to all Florida students continues to progress in the House and Senate, clearing committees in both chambers Wednesday.

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But there’s debate over how much the measure would cost and who should qualify.

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Politics sometimes makes strange bedfellows, and it’s not often you hear State Representative Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville) and Governor Ron DeSantis in agreement.

“We should not be in the business of basically subsidizing millionaires and billionaires for their children to go to private schools,” Nixon said.

“If you have a family that’s very high income, they have school choice. They don’t necessarily need to be eligible for the program,” DeSantis said in a Tuesday press conference.

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Both leaders have raised concerns about opening private school vouchers to all Florida students, regardless of household income.

In the bill’s second Senate committee Wednesday, Senate Sponsor Corey Simon (R-Tallahassee) admitted there was still no cost estimate.

“You know as soon as we have those numbers, we’ll bring them out,” Simon said.

The House has estimated the bill would cost the state $209.6 million in its first year, but an estimate from the Florida Policy Institute put the cost around twenty times that amount at $4 billion.

Traditional public schools would lose funding for every student that takes advantage of the scholarships and decides to attend a private school.

Read: Florida House proposes major school voucher expansion for every student

“It’s only going to further defund public education. It’s only going to further stretch our teachers to operate within even more limited capacity,” Nixon said.

But Simon argued regardless of the cost, the goal is to ensure money follows the student, not the facility.

“We’re still gonna give you money for a student that you’re not teaching. We’re not going to do that. The money is following the child,” Simon said.

Lawmakers are running out of opportunities to add an income cap, though the Governor did note he doesn’t see it as a deal breaker.

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The bill has just one more stop before reaching the Senate floor and is now teed up for a vote on the House floor.


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