Florida expands Step Up For Students scholarship program

Patrick Gibbons

The Florida state Assembly passed a bill, 95-23, to expand the Step Up For Students corporate tuition tax credit program, which sends 25,000 low-income children in Florida to any public or private school of their parents’ choice. The bill, which has had strong bipartisan support in both houses, now goes to the governor, who will likely sign it.

When it goes into law, the tax-credit donation cap will be extended to $140 million (and then grow another 20 percent, if donations reach 90 percent of the $140 million cap). Scholarships will also be lifted from $3,900 to 80 percent of the state’s per-pupil funding – which is low-balled at just $6,866 per pupil.

Opponents have argued that the tax credit takes money out of the coffers of local public schools and leaves them with fewer resources. But technically, this isn’t true at all. The U.S. Department of Education estimated that Florida spent $11,077 per pupil in 2006-07 (this includes capital costs and debt repayment). That means for every child who takes the new scholarship and attends a private school, the state and school districts save at least $5,584 – meaning they actually have more money to spend on the children who remain in the traditional public schools.