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Florida’s Corporate Step-Up Scheme: 51,075 Students Now Enrolled in Private Schools at Taxpayers’ Expense

| July 8, 2013

Luck of the draw. (Ourbethlehem)

Luck of the draw. (Ourbethlehem)

The state’s voucher-like system that allows students to attend private schools experienced record enrollment growth in the 2012-13 school year, according to a state report, and a spokesman said the program expects to add even more students for the upcoming year.

According to the annual report on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program by the state Department of Education, the number of students using the program grew by 10,827 in 2012-13, to 51,075, or almost 27 percent.

Jon East, spokesman for Step Up for Students, the administrator of the program, said the growth is primarily due to a bill approved by the Legislature in 2012 that increased the budget for the program to $229 million. That was nearly $10.3 million more than the credit would have otherwise increased under an automatic funding formula.

Under the program, corporations are allowed to take tax credits for money that they contribute to Step Up for Students, which then uses those funds to essentially provide private-school vouchers.

Demand for the program has continued to grow, East said in an email.

“Even after serving 51,075 students this past year, there was a waiting list of about 10,000 students,” East said.

East said the cap for the coming school year is $286.2 million, which has already been contributed, and the program has given out about 60,000 vouchers for 2013-14.

Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the Florida Education Association, pointed out that almost 2.7 million students attend public school in Florida. He didn’t dispute the idea that state leaders have pushed to increase the use of vouchers.

“The state has certainly encouraged the growth of the corporate voucher program, despite the fact that these schools are largely unregulated and the state doesn’t gauge their effectiveness compared to public schools,” he said.

The report does give some insight into the demographics of the program and how it’s used. While about 26.8 percent of the schools that participate in the program are secular, only 17.5 percent of the students enrolled attend those schools. The rest go to religious institutions.

And the majority of students who use the program are minorities. Almost 34.7 percent of the students receiving vouchers are Latinos, while 33.1 percent are African American and just shy of 25 percent are white. A little more than 7 percent are either members of other racial or ethnic groups or their race and ethnicity were not reported.

–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida

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17 Responses for “Florida’s Corporate Step-Up Scheme: 51,075 Students Now Enrolled in Private Schools at Taxpayers’ Expense”

  1. Kip Durocher says:

    In the United States 50% of all capital gains income goes to the top 1/1000th of one percent of American citizens, a little over 1500 famlies. Most of the rest goes to corporations owning stock ~ like insurance companies and companies holding their own stock. A small amount goes to stock holding pension plans.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why should the tax payers pay for private school vouchers? If you want to send you kid to a private school… out the Benjamins like the everyone else. Otherwise, send your kid to public school. My entire family graduated from public schools, and we are doing just fine! Parents these days live under the umbrella assumption that drugs and gangs are not in the private schools…..making their kids safe. Well guess what folks?? Drugs and gangs are everywhere! Just last month I witnessed two juveniles making a drug deal right on the corner where the Imagine Schools bus stops in the R section.

    It makes no difference if your kid goes to public school or private school. If they are going to fail, they are going to fail. If they are going to do drugs or join a gang……..just going to a private school will not stop them. Just remember the saying about assumptions, and what happens when you assume.

  3. Realty Check says:

    That is because the public school system is a proven failure, just look at the Flagler County School Board memebrs, need I say more.

  4. confidential says:

    All excuses invented to undermine our traditional public schools and create the privatization “for profit” tax payers funds, sucking system. My kids went to our traditional public school system and are doing excellent. Our former students from that system are our lawyers, doctors, business men and women and all professionals of today, so?. The conservative “privatize all agenda” to benefit the few is not what America was funded on. Sooner or later the most will suffer the consequences of this travesty. On a way I am glad I do not have grand children to worry about, as the future of education in private hands will be the same as our current health care system, were only the one’s that can pay big money can have it…
    Welcome to feudalism!

    • Johnny Taxpayer says:

      So because you’re happy with the Public School system and you feel it worked well for your family, then you should be able to force that opinion on all Florida parents? Does this program force any child from a public school into a private school against their will? Or does it allow Parents to make their own choice as to what is best for their children?

  5. confidential says:

    By the way this conservative agenda of privatizing it all, is one of many reasons, why I will never vote GOP again!

  6. Nancy N. says:

    It is absolutely CRIMINAL that the legislature is incentivizing companies to donate to private schools and not their own public schools. The legislature is sending a very clear message – and an unconstitutional one – that it will give extra benefit to companies that support this state’s religious schools. My child should not have to be a second-class citizen in the educational system because I do not wish for her to have a religious education. Government in this country is not allowed to endorse religion and yet, that is exactly what the legislature is doing by giving private donors incentives to funnel their resources to private (religious) schools instead of the government’s own public (secular) schools.

  7. A.S.F. says:

    And I bet the architects of these wonderfully charitable voucher programs (that pay off with tax breaks) are the same people who complain the loudest about even the smallest of tax increases for public schools. Oh, those greedy teachers….

  8. m&m says:

    They have a better chance of getting an education then staying in the worthless school board system we have here. The teachers and the board are only in it for the $$$$$$$$..

    • Out of Curiosity says:


      …and yes, those greedy, greedy teachers are the cause of our public education system’s decline. The fact that this state invests so little in our public schools has absolutely no impact whatsoever.

    • A.S.F. says:

      …as opposed to wall street and all the other chariatable business people out there who work for so little money and almost no perks at all.

  9. nyy says:

    M&M, Really!!!!!

  10. Sherry Epley says:

    Our hard earned publix tax dollars should ONLY be used for PUBLIC schools period!

    The conservative agenda is to do everything possible to tear down our” public” school system, and to channel resources into religious/charter (AKA private) schools. Our citizens will unfortunately soon have no choice but to send their children to schools that are completely “for profit”. . . NOT for better education! Those schools will be completely controlled by religious leaders/stock market makers.

    Our current public school boards are not resisting this trend. . . in fact, they are playing right into the hands of this strategy. The focus of their decisions needs to return to what ever is needed to create the best possible education for our future generations and NOTHING else. They need to stop trying to manipulate our voters into paying higher taxes to protect their own salaries. In fact, I would love to see our boards of education run by caring volunteers, instead of those looking for a well paying ($30,000+) part time job, without qualifications. Any required cost cutting should first apply to those things that do not have ANY negative effect on actual education.

  11. Me says:

    Please watch “Waiting for Superman”. It can be found on Netflix if you have it. Flagler may not be the example provides here, however, the movie makes the strongest argument I’ve yet seen for the need for a charter system.

  12. confidential says:

    @ Johnny Taxpayer. Then if you or I, do not like the services of our law enforcement or fire departments or judges and court system, government etc. etc., then we should also privatize it, so taxpayers like you get a voucher and go get their own private law enforcement, fire,emergency, judges, courts, government, etc. etc. creating a real mayhem! Can you realize the non sense and extremism of your statement?

    Why my public school tax contributions should fork your voucher for private education within “for profit (no BS) business.

  13. Liana G says:

    So parents are not taxpayers? Since when? Why do liberals call themselves ‘progressives’ yet push back against progress. Either drop the term or embrace progress. Otherwise it’s hypocritical. I bet m&m, like many, is very upset with the results of public education.

    The other day I was proofing a PowerPoint presentation one of my kids made (9th grader and a former student of FCSD – 6 years in Flagler schools) and she did not know the difference between ‘its’ and ‘it’s’. She kept using the two inaccurately. Now that summer vacation is here, I’m having to continue our summer routine of summer school workbooks. And that is in addition to math summer school that they are taking in order to bring their math up to standards so that they can take the Math Regents in January 2014. The school wasn’t comfortable with them taking it this year knowing they would fail. This is very disheartening and really speaks to the quality of education in public schools even with all the oversight.

    Good for those parents and students that are being given the opportunity to choose.

    • Give me a break!!! says:

      This liberal taxpayer suggests the first step toward progress is for parents and students to stop blaming the schools for everything including their own lack of academic performance. Not knowing the difference between ‘it’s’ and ‘it’s’ reflects more on you and your child than it does the school. We have very good schools in Flagler. Why did it take your child creating a PowerPoint in the 9th grade to realize she didn’t know this???

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