TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — A new school voucher program is closer to being a reality after the Florida Senate passed a bill for the program on Thursday.

The Senate voted 23-17 to create the “Family Empowerment Scholarship,” which would spend taxpayer money to send students from lower-income families to private schools.

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Democrats opposed the bill, saying it would divert money from public schools to send them to schools that aren’t held to the same accountability standards. But Republicans said the bill also gives school districts money to recruit and retain teachers, as well as money targeted to help struggling schools.

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The new voucher program would be capped at 18,000 students in its first year. The bill is a priority for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

A similar measure is being considered by the House.

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