TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – A bill that would allow more than 6,000 additional students to use a state-backed voucher program has cleared another hurdle.

On Monday the Senate PreK-12 Education Committee passed the bill on a party-line vote.

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Under the measure (SB 962) the cap on the total tax credits used to fund the program would rise by almost $31.3 million in 2012-13, setting the cap at $250 million. That would amount to a 42 percent increase from the current-year cap of $175 million.

“This successful, cost-saving program has given thousands of low-income students a chance in their education that would not otherwise be available for them,” said Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future. “The changes SB 962 introduces will give even more parents a voice in their children’s education.”

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Current law allows the cap to increase by 25 percent in any year after approved applications to the program use at least 90 percent of the budget. The program is aimed at allowing low-income students to attend private schools, something that Republicans says increases choice and educational opportunity but some Democrats complain siphons money away from public schools.

Supporters also argue that the program actually saves the state money, because the scholarships given to students are actually smaller than their share of their public school’s funding. The scholarships are paid for with donations by corporations, who then claim the size of the contribution as a tax credit.

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