Senate Bill 7070: Education bill makes changes

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Senate Bill 7070 gives new scholarship opportunities for students in grades K-12 whose guardians make an annual household income that's less than 300% above the poverty line (which is an annual income of $77,250/yr or less for a family of 4).

The Family Empowerment Scholarship program allows qualifying students to apply the voucher to certain charter and private schools. But not everyone is on board. "Our district and school board have made it clear that we have concerns," Jackie Johnson the director of communications for Alachua County Public Schools explains.

Johnson says that, unlike private schools, public schools are held to strict regulations in areas like teacher certifications, and state testing. "There are almost no regulations required for private schools in the state of Florida", according to Johnson. The funding for the program comes from the Florida Education Finance Program which is taxpayer money that's used to fund the state's public school system.

Johnson tells us "You're talking about state money on schools that aren't accountable or required to make the same requirements that traditional public schools meet".

The bill passed in the Florida house 76 to 39 and was signed by Governor DeSantis last Thursday. District 8 Senator Keith Perry is one of the politicians who gave the bill a thumbs up. "You got to look at what families want to do with their children and give them more choices and more opportunities... That's what this bill does," Perry reasons.

Perry believes charter schools are held accountable by the power of word of mouth and explains that this bill gives families more educational freedom. The Alachua County School District believes vouchers like the Family Scholarship Program hurt the public school system.

Senate Bill 7070 is anticipated to go into effect for the 2019 - 2020 school year.