Miami republican Erik Fresen “tweaked” voucher expansion. From Kathleen McGrory in the Miami Herald:
….late Wednesday, Rep. Erik Fresen combined the voucher language with a separate bill creating education savings accounts for special-needs children. That bill (HB 1503, now PCB EDAS 14-03) has a counterpart in the Senate (SB 1512), and is thus still in play.
Fresen, R-Miami, said it made sense to combine the proposals.
“The two bills were on separate paths to begin with, but they both fit under the umbrella of school choice,” he said. “This bill now covers the entire scope of school choice.”
The original proposal would have allowed sales tax revenue to help fund the voucher program. It would have also enabled certain students to receive partial scholarships, and removed some of the barriers to children in foster care.
Fresen did not carry the sales tax provision over to the new combined bill.
“It was the most contentious point,” he said. “We figured if we were going to revive the bill, we should adjust that part.”
Fresen did not add language requiring scholarship students to take the state exams. Senate President Don Gaetz has said a voucher expansion bill will not be heard in the Senate without that provision. But the House has insisted that such a testing requirement is unnecessary and impractical.
Gaetz doesn’t say things he doesn’t mean, and such a public attempt to horse trade with him isn’t a good idea. Fresen knows that the most ‘contentious point” wasn’t the inclusion of sales tax revenue, it was the fact that the powerful school choice lobby doesn’t want voucher schools to be held accountable like public schools are. This flailing attempt by Fresen is a non-starter with Gaetz.
Fresen wants to ignore the reality that the state’s top voucher lobbying group, Step Up for Students, wasn’t even registered as lobbyist. And that it’s CEO is on a video bragging about how much cash they donate to state politicians. Step Up for Students, also the main administrator of the current voucher plan is beginning to draw serious scrutiny.