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Voucher Proposal on Tap in Pennsylvania

A spate of voucher proposals are moving through legislatures this year, including one in Pennsylvania, which could be voted on by the state's Senate this week.

The measure, Senate Bill 1, would gradually expand vouchers, called "Opportunity Scholarships," over a three-year period.

The proposal, which is backed by the statehouse's Republican majority, would begin by providing economically disadvantaged students in low-performing schools with money, and gradually expand the provision of tax money for private school tuition to all low-income students statewide.

In the 2014-15 year, the legislation would create a "Middle Income Scholarship Program" based on excess scholarship funds, which would make students eligible for scholarships if they came from households with incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, according to recent version of the bill.

That provision appears to have a similiar aim as legislation in Indiana, which supporters say would create a voucher system for middle-income families.

Florida Republican lawmakers want to expand the state's voucher program. Voucher legislation has also reached the desk of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

Of course, debates about vouchers are usually legal stories, as well as political ones. Opponents of providing public money for private-school tuitions have challenged a number of voucher laws in court. Whether the vouchers stand up, legally, depends on individual states' constitutions—and the mechanics of how that money flows to students or private schools. So it's possible that the story won't end when various state legislatures adjourn.

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