Florida Income-Based Scholarships Give K-12 Students Educational Options

Scholarship Fast Facts

2021-22 Fast Facts:

85,510 students enrolled on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC).

78,220 students enrolled on Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options (FES-EO).

212 students with transportation scholarships.

Average household income of $37,730 for a family of four.

65% Black or Hispanic.

55% of students live in single-parent households.

2,048 participating private schools.

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) and the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options (FES-EO)

Florida’s two income-based scholarship programs, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program and the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options (FES-EO) give students learning options not available to them because of their financial circumstances.

Both programs provide private school scholarships or help with transportation costs to an out-of-district public school.

Urban Institute Study

A first-of-its-kind student on the long-term effects of the scholarship program found that FTC scholarship students are up to 43 percent more likely to go to college and up to 29 percent more likely to earn an associate's degree. See fact sheet here.

Step Up awarded scholarships, averaging between $7,250 to $7,850 depending on grade and county of residence, to 93,141 economically disadvantaged students during the 2022-23 school year.  The schools that have chosen to join the cause of helping underprivileged students run the gamut – everything from the seven-student Walden Middle School in Gulfport to the 1,807-student Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale. The average school in the 2022-23 school year had 56 scholarship students.

The Typical Student

Working class families

The average household income is $37,730, or 43 percent above poverty. The standard for free or reduced lunch in public schools is 185 percent of poverty.

Black or Hispanic

Some 29 percent of students are black and 38 percent Hispanic. Roughly 26 percent are white and another 3 percent identify as multi-racial.

Lives with one parent

55 percent of the scholarship children are from single-parent households.

Has struggled academically

A state-commissioned researcher has determined that scholarship students “tend to be among the lowest-performing students in their prior school, regardless of the performance level of their public school.”

The Typical School

Small in size

The average total enrollment is 135 students.

Serves mostly private-paying students

The average participating school serves 91 scholarship students, or about 30 percent of the student population.

Serves elementary students

Of the more than 85,000 FTC students served, 37 percent of all scholarship students are in grades K-2 and 63 percent in grades K-5.


69 percent of the schools are faith-based. The 186 Catholic schools represent the largest single group.

Transparency and Legal Requirements

The scholarship is only for low-income students

To initially receive a scholarship, a student’s household income cannot exceed 185 percent of poverty, which is the standard for free or reduced-price lunch.

Scholarship students are tested

Every scholarship student in grades 3-10 is required to take a nationally norm-referenced test approved by the state.

Academic gains are measured and reported

A University of Florida research team each year publicly reports the test gains in reading and math, both statewide and for schools with at least 30 students.

Scholarship money is monitored

Every school receiving more than $250,000 in scholarship money each year must file a financial report by an independent CPA.

The History of Choice in Florida

Read Program History

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program Law

Florida Statutes Section 1002.395: “The Legislature finds that: Ensuring that all parents, regardless of means, may exercise and enjoy their basic right to educate their children as they see fit is a valid public purpose that the Legislature may promote using its sovereign power to determine subjects of taxation and exemptions from taxation. Expanding educational opportunities and the healthy competition they promote are critical to improving the quality of education in the state and to ensuring that all children receive the high-quality education to which they are entitled.”

Since its creation in 2001, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship has undergone a continuing series of revisions that have expanded the program and strengthened accountability measures.

Read more about program rules and accountability here.


The Impact on the Florida Budget

The March 2010 State Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability report uncovered two remarkable findings on how the the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program saves taxpayer money:
  1. For fiscal year 2008-2009, the scholarship program saved taxpayers $36.2 million and,
  2. For every $1 lost to tax credits, the state saved $1.44. “While the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program reduces the amount of tax revenues received by the state, it produces a net fiscal benefit,” the report found, “This occurs because education spending for students receiving scholarships is reduced by more than the amount of revenue lost.”
According to Florida Tax Watch, during the 2017-18 school year, the FTC scholarship was worth $0.59 for every $1 spent on public education from all sources. For more information on costs and savings regarding the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship see the Cost Savings Fact Sheet.



In 2006, the State Legislature required that every scholarship student take a nationally norm-referenced test approved by the state Department of Education (DOE) every year. Those test scores are reported to a research team that is under contract with DOE to write an annual evaluation. Evaluations are currently done by researchers at the Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University.

Long-Term Effects

Financial Impact of FTC Scholarships

Quarterly DOE Enrollment Reports

Annual Accountability Reports

Annual School Reports

Other Reports

Step Up For Students
Income-Based Scholarship Growth