TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Florida charter schools would be eligible for money the governor controls for regional projects designed to create jobs, under a bill backed by a Senate committee Tuesday.

The Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously supported a proposal (SB 130) by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, that would allow charter schools offering career and technical education “graduation pathway” programs to get money from the state’s Job Growth Grant Fund.

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Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, while voting for the bill, expressed concern that state money appears to “go more to charter than our public schools and programs that we already have.”

Hutson said other public schools that also offer the career and technical programs are eligible for the money.

The fund was created in 2017 after a legislative battle about incentives, including a failed request by then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2016 to provide $250 million in economic-development money that could go directly to businesses.

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DeSantis is asking lawmakers in the 2020 session to set aside $85 million for the Job Growth Grant Fund, which some Democrats have labeled a “slush fund” that has lacked oversight.

The fund was cut to $40 million for the current fiscal year that began July 1, after receiving $85 million the prior two years.

Last week, marking the first anniversary of Hurricane Michael devastating parts of the Panhandle, DeSantis made his first use of the fund, saying $2.86 million would go to finance roads and underground utilities for future housing in Bay County.

Hutson’s bill is filed for the legislative session that starts Jan. 14.

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