The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for low-income students, now in the 15th year of operation, has demonstrated consistent growth and progress. The program attracts among the poorest and lowest performing students from district public schools, and yet those same students now keep pace with students of all income levels on standardized tests. We know parents rate the scholarship program with extraordinary satisfaction and it saves the state millions of dollars each year that can be put toward other educational programs.
- By the numbers
- Academic Performance
- Parental Satisfaction
- Impact on the Florida Budget
- Impact on district public schools
2016-17 School Year
98,457 scholarship students
1,712 participating schools
69 percent of schools are faith-based
66 percent of students are in grades K-5
55 percent of students in single-adult households
4.4 above poverty (average household income was $24,074)
Evaluation of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, Participation, Compliance and Test Scores in 2012-13, August 2014 state Department of Education report found that, “…the typical student participating in the program gained a year’s worth of learning in a year’s worth of time. It is important to note that these national comparisons pertain to all students nationally, and not just low-income students.”
The report also notes that those who choose the scholarship were struggling academically at their previous school, a pattern that is “becoming stronger” over time.
Scholarship participants have significantly poorer test performance in the year prior to starting the scholarship program than do non-participants. These differences are large in magnitude and are statistically significant, and indicate that scholarship participants tend to be considerably more disadvantaged and lower-performing upon entering the program than their non-participating counterparts.
1) The report found a 95.4 percent approval rating among participating parents. Of that total, 75.1 percent said their schools were “excellent” and 20.3 percent said they were “good.”
2) Low-income parents with children in public schools were one-third as likely to rank their schools excellent and 13 times more likely to rate their schools as poor.
1) For fiscal year 2008-2009, the scholarship program saved taxpayers $36.2 million.
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. This occurs because education spending for students receiving scholarships is reduced by more than the amount of revenue lost.”
1) The creation of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship in 2001 led immediately to academic improvements in public schools that were the most likely to lose students to a learning alternative.
2) Learning gains were the largest in the public schools with the greatest number of nearby private schools and those with the greatest incentives to keep federal money received based on the number of lower-income students. “Our results indicate that the increased competitive pressure faced by public schools associated with the introduction of Florida’s FTC Scholarship Program led to general improvements in public school performance.
The Gardiner Scholarship program (formerly known as the Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts or PLSA) is a unique program for children with special needs. The scholarship allows parents to personalize the education of their children by directing money toward a combination of programs and approved providers. Florida became the second state in the nation, after Arizona, to create an education savings account program for children with special needs in 2014.
Florida’s newest school choice program began enrolling students less than two months after being signed into law. More than 1,500 students received scholarships in the inaugural 2014-15 school year.
$76.3 million is available for the Gardiner Scholarship in 2016-17. Step Up has awarded 6,163 scholarships so far. Scholarships are available on a rolling basis and are prorated quarterly. As of September 7, more than 4,000 scholarship accounts have been funded, representing $41 million in scholarships.
Step Up managed the scholarship accounts of 4,692 students and AAA Scholarships served an additional 256 for the 2015-16 school year. In all, $47.3 million in scholarships were awarded.
- 61 percent of students were diagnosed with autism
- 20 percent have an intellectual disability
- 6 percent have multiple disabilities
- 5 percent were diagnosed as a “high-risk” child
- 3 percent have cerebral palsy,
- 3 percent have Down syndrome
- 2 percent were diagnosed with one of the other eligible disabilities such as Prader-Willi syndrome, spina bifida, and Williams Syndrome.