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Jax Daily Record Friday, Apr. 15, 201112:00 PM EST

Education account bill clears first hurdle

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from The News Service of Florida

A plan to allow parents to use state funding to pay for private school tuition, college savings plans, or tutoring cleared its first committee on Thursday.

The plan (SB 1550) would take 40 percent of the state’s per-pupil spending on a public school student and deposit it into an account – the bill calls it an “education savings account” – where it may be used to pay private school tuition, for tutors, or for college savings accounts.

That would amount to about $3,100 per student under this year’s education funding formula.

“This is a very innovative program that recognizes that parents should have choices,” said Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart), the bill sponsor.

Any student, whether currently attending public or private school, would be eligible to open an account.

Gov. Rick Scott has previously stated his support for savings account plans for parents, and the idea is supported by an education policy group founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Though the bill cleared the Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee on Tuesday, supporters and detractors alike said it isn’t likely to progress much further.

Its House companion (HB 1225) has not yet been heard in a committee.

“It won’t get much further this year,” said Jaryn Emhof, a spokeswoman for the Foundation for Florida’s Future, the education think tank affiliated with Bush that is pushing various proposals that would channel more state funding into charter, virtual and private schools. “It was heard as a courtesy.”

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