TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—The Florida Legislature has given final approval to a statewide voucher program, which a Florida Catholic education leader called “a significant breakthrough.''

Gov. Jeb Bush, who campaigned on the issue last year in the Florida gubernatorial race, said he would sign the measure, which was approved by the state Senate April 30. The House approved the proposal two days earlier. Critics have said they will file suit to block its implementation.

Under the bill, all students in Florida's worst public schools will be eligible for vouchers of about $4,000 a year to help pay for tuition at private or parochial schools, or parents could choose to send their children to another public school.

The language of the bill “specifies that parents will be afforded the right to choose the schools — be it public, private or parochial — they deem are best suited for their children who are in chronically low performing schools,'' said Larry D. Keough, education coordinator for the Florida Catholic Conference..

Under the program all public schools would be rated annually by the state on a grade scale from “A'' to “F.''

The voucher is eligible to students whose school has received an F grade in the past year and it has received that designation for the second time in four years.