In 2006, lawmakers adopted a comprehensive set of financial and educational controls, including the requirement that each student in the program take a standardized test recognized by the state Department of Education. Three independent research organizations – the Collins Center for Public Policy, Florida TaxWatch and the state Office of Program Policy and Government Analysis – concluded the program has saved money for the public education system.
In 2010, the Legislature put the scholarship program on a path for continued growth and success by allowing the fundraising cap to grow by 25 percent when 90 percent of the cap is reached in the prior year. Lawmakers also indexed the scholarship amount to public school spending, ultimately reaching 80 percent of the basic per-student operational formula. New potential tax sources for tax credits were added, bringing the total to five: corporate income, insurance premium, alcoholic beverage excise, direct pay sales and oil and gas severance. Also, the law required individual schools of sufficient size to disclose test score gains and financial information. The expansion bill passed by a broad bipartisan majority.
Today, Step Up manages multiple scholarship programs offering scholarships to more than 100,000 low-income students on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, nearly 37,000 on the Family Empowerment Scholarship, more than 16,000 on the Gardiner Scholarship for students with special needs, nearly 400 on the Hope Scholarship for victims of bullying and harassment and more than 6,000 public school students are expected to get help with reading and literacy through the Reading Scholarship.
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program remains Step Up’s largest program with more than 991,000 scholarships awarded since 2002-03.