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    Senate panel begins to review school vouchers

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 12, 2003

    TALLAHASSEE -- About 9,000 disabled students in Florida get taxpayer-funded vouchers so they can go to private schools. Now, concerns that some private schools are taking the state's money and not educating students properly have prompted the state Senate to investigate.

    Senate President Jim King on Friday convened a special task force to look into the issue. It is headed by the man the voucher program is named for: former Senate President John McKay.

    The task force highlighted several well-publicized troubles with the state scholarships, including problems at the Excellence Academy in Pinellas County, which lost its state money after holding classes in a dilapidated mansion and in the public library.

    Some of the schools, task force members said, don't have teachers trained to handle disabled kids.

    "None of us want to see a couple of bad apples spoil the barrel for 9,000 children, but we can't say everything is hunky-dory," McKay said.

    The task force meets again April 28.

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