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Save-vouchers plan advances

Associated Press
Published March 30, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - A proposed constitutional amendment sought by Gov. Jeb Bush that could let the Legislature give private school vouchers to virtually every student in Florida narrowly cleared a Senate committee Wednesday.

The proposal is designed to get around a Florida Supreme Court ruling declaring one of the state's three voucher programs unconstitutional, protect the other two from similar legal challenges and expand the concept.

Vouchers allow students to attend private and religious schools at public expense. The stricken program was a cornerstone of the governor's "A-Plus" plan to make public schools more accountable and improve student performance.

The proposed amendment (SJR 2170), which voters would have to approve, came on a 5-3 party line vote in the Judiciary Committee. All three Democrats opposed it.

The key language would exempt school vouchers from a constitutional ban on spending public dollars to aid churches or other religious organizations. Another provision, known as the "65 percent solution," would require school districts to spend that much of their operating budgets on classroom expenses. It doesn't define what classroom expenses are.

The 65 percent solution also is in another ballot proposal (SJR 1150) that would weaken class size limits voters approved in a 2002 amendment to the Florida Constitution. The revision is another top priority for Bush.

[Last modified March 30, 2006, 02:15:33]

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