Gov. DeSantis announces plan to eliminate waitlist for scholarships; funding questions remain

Video: Gov. DeSantis announces plan to eliminate waitlist for scholarships; funding questions remain

ORLANDO, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed a new school voucher program Friday to end the waitlist for Florida’s tax credit scholarship.

During his visit to Calvary City Christian Academy, the governor announced his solution -- a new program called the equal opportunity scholarship.

The program would provide money for students to attend private schools and this new proposal has quickly become divisive.

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The governor pointed to the roughly 100,000 students taking part in the program as a sign of its success, but critics are already taking issue with his new plan.

“It'll be similar in amount,” DeSantis said. “It'll be similar in how you can use it, but it'll provide more resources for families to be able to pick the type of education that makes the most sense for their children.”

The current program provides up to $7,100 for low-income students to attend private schools.

Outside entities fund the voucher in exchange for tax credits, but administrators said the pace of contributions has slowed.

There are roughly 13,000 students on the waitlist, including Shareka Wright's two sons.

“I pray that the bill passes and I would be able to know that I have some kind of help with school,” Wright said.

The governor said his proposal could cost up to $100 million and, while he got cheers from a friendly audience, critics quickly took aim.

The state Democratic Party called the proposal "another Republican plan aimed at starving public schools of funding." And an Orange County School Board member raised concerns that private schools don't face the same accountability as public schools.

“If they do not submit to the same level of accountability, I don't think that is a wise use of our tax dollars,” said Orange County School Board member Linda Kobert.

The governor didn't offer many details but said the program could be funded through tax dollars and a hybrid of some of the other scholarships already in place.

Lawmakers would need to sign off on the plan.