Signed into law 15 years ago by Gov. Jeb Bush, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship is one of the most innovative education programs in America. This fall, it’s helping 93,000 students access schools that work best for them.
Florida businesses deserve the lion’s share of credit. The corporate community has contributed $2.7 billion, and funded 570,000 scholarships.
“We are enthused about seeing these kids succeed when, chances are, they wouldn’t have in a traditional setting,” said STEVE KNOPIK, CEO of Beall’s, one of the program’s founding donors.
The cause couldn’t be more worthy. Average income for a scholarship family is $24,075, and years of data show scholarship students were typically the ones who struggled most in their prior schools. But now they are making solid progress.
“The program does an excellent job of partnering with schools to distribute scholarships, and makes a difference in so many lives,” said STAN CONNALLY, chairman, president and CEO of Gulf Power, also a founding donor.
Giving is a snap. If your company has a corporate income tax or insurance premium tax liability in Florida, it can earn dollar-for-dollar tax credits in return for contributions to scholarship funding organizations.
Step Up For Students, Florida’s premier scholarship organization, has served students since the program’s inception. It earned a perfect score in accountability from Charity Navigator this year, and a platinum rating from GuideStar. Next year it expects to serve 100,000 students as the state-set contributions cap rises from $559 million to $698 million.
If you’d like to help, click here or call Step Up at 1-866-344-9553.
Court-Happy Unions Strike Again: Did They Think We Wouldn’t Notice?
In the ongoing battle against parental choice, Florida’s teachers union has once again showed their true colors when they took to the courts to sue against tax credit scholarships.
Tax credit scholarships, an effort passed during the 2014 legislative session, allow companies to provide the means for students to attend high-quality private schools, which more often than not provide exponentially greater opportunities for success.
“For many of Florida’s poorest families, zoned for some of the lowest-performing schools in the state, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program offers hope for parents and a life-changing education for children,” said former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, chairman of ExcelinEd. “This lawsuit is just the latest attack on parental choice by an entrenched education establishment more concerned about protecting the status quo than providing families the opportunities afforded by a great education.”
This status quo former Gov. Bush refers to is protected by non-other than Charlie Crist, another former Florida Governor. In an article issued earlier this month, an influential Panhandle civil rights leader, Rev. H.K. Matthews, spoke about the response he received when he asked Crist to publically denounce the lawsuit:
“You cannot stay silent on this lawsuit,” Matthews wrote. “These families deserve to know if you support or oppose the lawsuit to evict 70,000 poor — and mostly minority — children from their schools.”
Asked about Matthews’ request to call on the unions to drop the suit, Crist said “I’m not going to do that. They have the right to sue for that if they want to.”
Matthews said Crist’s response left him “disappointed” because he recalled standing with Crist at the state Capitol in 2010 when the then-Republican governor expanded and pledged to support the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which gives corporations dollar-for-dollar tax credits to underwrite private education.
Now Crist is standing by a lawsuit that could undo that very program…
Florida’s education systems are on the right track. Minority graduation and achievement rates are number one in the nation and recent reforms in education have allowed our fourth grader readers to rank second in the world behind Hong Kong. The benefits of this program, and of allowing our students access to quality education, cannot be denied. According to a Northwestern University study, “program participants are keeping pace with students nationally.”
“This study once again proves that all children can and will learn when given the opportunity to attend the school that best fits their needs,” said Foundation for Excellence in Education CEO Patricia Levesque. “This program gives parents a choice in their child’s education they would be unable to afford otherwise. Yet, unions want to keep students from accessing these opportunities that are clearly working for kids. This program is providing some of our state’s most vulnerable children with a quality, customized education, and sadly we have a power-hungry organization trying to keep it from reaching more families.”
At the Florida Chamber, we believe a quality education is key for our state’s success. But the fact of the matter is, not every child has the opportunity to receive a quality education. And it would seem that instead of putting the needs of Florida’s students first, Florida’s teachers union once again places the needs of members first.
“It’s outrageous that the teachers union and school boards are suing to take opportunities away from children and their parents,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Perhaps they were hoping Florida’s parents won’t notice.”
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program is expected to serve 67,000 Florida students next year- and we hope for the sake of our state’s future their chances aren’t taken away.
The Florida Chamber will continue to support parents in choosing the best educational options for their children. Learn more about our fight by contacting us at 850-521-1200. We hope to see you at our annual Future of Florida Forum, where we will continue discussions on how we can help secure Florida’s future.