Budget conference: House agrees to $350M for voucher safety net for school districts
Josie Tomkow is fighting off questionable claims that she does not live in herdistrict.

'If we are wrong, that $350 million is there for them to tap into.'

Lawmakers are agreeing to set aside $350 million as a safety net to prevent cuts to school districts in case the voucher expansion they already approved leads to an exodus of students.

House budget negotiators moved to the $350 million figure preferred by the Senate, up from their original position of $109.7 million.

“If proration becomes an issue, we want to keep those school districts whole,” said Rep. Josie Tomkow, a Polk City Republican who chairs the House PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

But the fund is set up how the House originally conceived of it — as a way for school districts to apply for funds to ensure they aren’t punished if fewer students enroll in traditional public schools as a result of HB 1, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last month. The bill opens Florida’s voucher program, which gives parents a stipend to send their children to private school, to all students in the state, regardless of income.

The Senate preferred to set aside the money for the voucher program to tap into in case its popularity exceeded the estimated demand. Instead, it will be school districts who must apply to the Department of Education in the case of a public school exodus.

“If we are wrong, that $350 million is there for them to tap into,” Tomkow said.

Budget conference subcommittees will meet throughout the week to resolve differences in each area. When remaining issues reach an impasse, they will be “bumped” to the full budget conference committee.

Lawmakers must reach an agreement on a final spending plan by May 2 to meet the 72-hour “cooling off” period required by the state constitution before they can vote on the budget to avoid pushing the Regular Session past its scheduled May 5 end date.

Gray Rohrer


  • Michael K

    April 26, 2023 at 7:49 am

    So the legislature syphons money from local public school districts and funnels it into unaccountable private, exclusionary religious schools — but only now is now concerned about the potential drain on public education.

    I have a suggestion: invest in public education for EVERYONE — and parents who want to send their kids to private school can do it at the expense, as they have for generations. You’d save schools and tons of money. Besides, home schoolers should not get paid $8,000 per kid by the state wthzero accountability.

  • Tjb

    April 27, 2023 at 12:19 pm

    Today DeSantis spoke about the need to have government oversight of Disney. Will he have the same oversight with private schools and home schools that we now have with our K – 12 public schools?

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