tampabay.com

House okays hike in vouchers for private schools

By TIMES STAFF
Published May 1, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - By an 84-34 vote, the House of Representatives Monday approved a bill that increases the voucher amounts middle and high school students can receive under the Corporate Income Tax Credit program, a 5-year-old program that provides private school scholarships for low-income students. Middle schoolers could get vouchers of $4, 000, up from $3, 750, under the bill (HB 7145). High schoolers could get vouchers of $4, 250. The bill also makes it easier for siblings of current scholarship recipients to enroll, and it opens up the vouchers to students in foster care or juvenile justice programs. More than 16, 000 students now receive the vouchers. The House bill also opens up vouchers in the McKay Scholarship Program for disabled students to those who are schooled at home - as long as they have a note from a physician explaining that their regular attendance in private school could "jeopardize" their welfare or that of other students. Nearly 18, 000 students currently receive McKay Scholarships, which were established in 1999.

Minorities may get AP courses boost

A new state council would recruit minority students for Advanced Placement courses, under legislation (SB 108) approved by the House and Senate. The Florida Partnership for Minority and Underrepresented Student Achievement would train teachers so that they can better prepare students to pass the AP exams, and would work with community centers, churches and businesses to prepare students for college entrance exams. Also, school districts would have to present annual reports that track by gender, race and ZIP code the number of 11th graders who have taken at least two AP courses. Florida has the greatest number of African Americans who take and pass AP exams.

College bookstores may be tax-exempt

College bookstores would be exempt from the taxes for lease, rent, and other property use under a bill (HB 721) that cleared both chambers and is headed to the governor's desk. The change would cost the state about $1.5-million in tax revenue next year, and would cost local governments about $300, 000 in lost tax revenue.

Bill aids victims of sex crimes

Headed to the governor's desk is a bill, sponsored by Tampa Bay Sen. Mike Fasano, that improves the rights and treatment of sex offense victims. The bill (SB 642) requires a victim advocate be present when a sex offense victim requests one, and prohibits law enforcement from requiring the victim to take a polygraph. It also requires that accused sex offenders take an HIV test within 48 hours of a court order requested by the victim or victim's family.