St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • Money to track cows is cut out
  • Voucher bill heads to full House
  • Inmate's story key in guards' trial
  • Public hearings report bashes Senate tax plan
  • State sues to close Miss Cleo
  • Legislature in brief

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story

    printer version

    Voucher bill heads to full House

    The measure could award vouchers to any pupil who wants to go to private school.

    By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 15, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- A radical measure to give a private school voucher to any public school student who wants it sailed through its only committee stop Thursday and is headed for the House chamber floor.

    The bill, called the "No Strings Attached Act," would give school districts that participate greater say in how to spend the tax dollars they get from Tallahassee. In return, any student who wants to attend a private school or different public school would get a check from the state.

    But the measure is opposed by Gov. Jeb Bush and faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

    Senate President John McKay described himself as a longstanding proponent of vouchers, but said he has reservations about the proposal, especially if it turns out to be a "blank check" for vouchers.

    "I don't know if it is manageable by the Department of Education," McKay said.

    In an interview, Bush said he doesn't doubt the intentions of bill proponent Rep. Johnnie Byrd, but that "at this time, that proposal is not the right one."

    Bush has pushed to give school districts more spending flexibility and supports that part of the bill, simply not the voucher portion, a Bush spokeswoman added.

    Bush would have been in the minority at the House Council for Lifelong Learning, where Republicans beat back a series of amendments Democrats proposed to soften the bill, including one that would have required private schools that accept vouchers to accept any student regardless of past academic achievement, just as public schools do.

    Only six minutes of the meeting were devoted to public comment, and the three speakers who testified all opposed the plan.

    Florida Education Association lobbyist Marshall Ogletree suggested the bill provided a financial incentive to parents of private school students to enroll their children in public school for the minimum time required -- one year -- and then return them to private school using a voucher to subsidize tuition. He also said the staff analysis that said the bill wouldn't cost the state any more money was incomplete.

    Under the bill, school districts could decide to offer the vouchers in exchange for more flexibility in spending and less oversight by the state. For example, schools that offer the vouchers, called Freedom Scholarships, would not be graded under Bush's A+

    Plan for education unless 50 percent of all parents want the grade.

    Students who transfer to private schools do not have to take the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test, or FCAT, as public students now must do.

    It remains to be seen whether this proposal is a serious attempt to expand the state's voucher program or a negotiating tool House Republicans are lining up to use for leverage against the Senate later in the legislative session.

    House Speaker Tom Feeney said he hasn't decided when to schedule the bill for a floor vote. And he acknowledged Bush would prefer the bill if it were all flexibility and no voucher. But Feeney said before he gives that kind of spending power to schools, he wants parents to have the same level of flexibility when overseeing their children's education.

    Back to State news
    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
    Special Links
    Lucy Morgan

    From the Times state desk