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Voucher bill clears committee, heads to House floor

An expansion of the state’s tax credit scholarship program passed its final House committee Tuesday, paving the way for way for a vote of the full House.

The bill, House Bill 7099, passed the House choice and innovation subcommittee. The proposal expands the so-called voucher program by removing some eligibility restrictions, offering partial scholarships to some middle class families and increasing the amount of money available for the program.

“I want everyone to remember that education and our duty as a state to educate public students, our constituents and our taxpayers, it is not about the institution where they get educated,” said Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, who sponsored the measure. “This bill right here is about the kids and that is what I want you to remember.”

Supporters of the proposal said it gives parents more choices when it comes to educating their children; while opponents said the money takes away from public education funding.

“Any money that is allocated to the public school system should go to the public school system, not diverted anywhere else,” said JoAnn Brookins, the pastor at Carol City United Methodist Church and Opa Locka United Methodist Church.

The bill now heads to the House floor.