Florida Businesses Make School Choice a Reality
Donors to the Step Up For Students Scholarship Program Give Help to Thousands of Low-income Florida Students
January 30, 2014 | Tampa, Fla. – As millions of parents and teachers observe National School Choice Week, Florida celebrates a scholarship for poor and struggling schoolchildren that is made possible by contributions from the Sunshine State’s business community.
Thanks to more than 100 Florida corporations, Step Up For Students – the non-profit that administers the state’s tax credit scholarship program – raised $286 million to provide 59,674 low-income students scholarships during the 2013-14 school year. The typical Florida Tax Credit Scholarship student comes from a household with an average income of $24,764 – just nine percent above the poverty level. Seventy-one percent of the scholarship recipients are African American or Hispanic and over half of the scholarship students – 54.2 percent – come from single parent households.
Students are able to use their scholarship to attend one of about 1,500 participating private schools or for transportation to an out-of-district public school. The private schools are as diverse as the students themselves. One-third of the private schools are nondenominational or non-religious and the remaining two-thirds are of various faiths.
“In Florida, 1.5 million students now choose their own school,” says Step Up president Doug Tuthill. “Tax credit scholarships may make up a small proportion of all students exercising their right to choose, but the impact on these students is huge.”
“In Florida, 1.5 million students now choose their own school. Tax credit scholarships may make up a small proportion of all students exercising their right to choose, but the impact on these students is huge.”Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill
Six years of research by David Figlio at Northwestern University shows that students entering the program “tend to be among the lowest performing students in their prior school.” Despite the adversity faced by many of Florida’s scholarship students, Figlio’s research continues to show these students gain a year’s worth of learning when compared to all students, regardless of race or income, on national norm-referenced tests. “These students no longer fall behind their peers,” says Tuthill.
The program is financed by donations from corporations whose contribution receives a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit. The scholarship is worth $4,880 – just 72 percent of the state per-pupil support for local public schools. Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program is limited to students who qualify for the Free and Reduced Price Lunch program (185 percent above poverty) and children in foster care or who are homeless.
For more information about the scholarship program visit http://www.stepupforstudents.org.