Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Voucher Proposal Surfaces Wise Puts Forward Ambitious Plan

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Voucher Proposal Surfaces Wise Puts Forward Ambitious Plan

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- A key Republican lawmaker from Jacksonville said

yesterday he wants the Legislature to take up a school-vouchers

proposal that would be more ambitious than a plan backed by

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeb Bush.

Democrats, who have made Bush's support of vouchers a major

issue in this fall's campaign, seized on the comments by Rep.

Steve Wise. They said the comments show that Republicans want to

start a wide-ranging program that would use tax dollars to send

children to private schools.

"It's been my concern all along that once the door's cracked

open, it'll be kicked open by this Legislature," said former

House Speaker Peter Rudy Wallace, the Democratic candidate for

education commissioner.

But Cory Tilley, a spokesman for Bush, said Bush will not

support a broader plan. Bush wants to make available

private-school vouchers only to children who attend the state's

worst public schools.

"Anything beyond that is nothing Jeb Bush has proposed or is

going to support," Tilley said.

Wise, a 10-year lawmaker from Jacksonville's Westside, made his

comments after taking part in a news conference held by

Floridians for School Choice, a Miami-based group that supports

vouchers.

Under a vouchers program, the state would pay all or part of

the tuition of children attending private schools. While Bush

backs a limited vouchers plan, Democrat gubernatorial candidate

Buddy MacKay opposes all vouchers proposals.

Wise is an important player because he is expected next year to

chair the powerful House education-appropriations committee,

which helps determine school funding. The past two years he was

chairman of the House Academic Excellence Council, which

oversees all education issues.

Supporters say a vouchers program would increase competition

for public schools and give parents more choices about where

their children learn. …

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