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Private school scholarship program expanded to more low-income families

rick Private school scholarship program  expanded to more low income families

Gov. Rick Scott

Private school scholarship program  expanded to more low-income families

More low-income parents in Broward County will be able to send their children to private schools of their choice under a bill signed into law June 20, 2014 by Gov. Rick Scott.

The bill, SB 850, expands the Florida tax credit scholarship program, which served 4,829 students in Broward County last year, the third-highest total in the state. The program is expected to serve more than 67,000 students this fall.

The deadline to apply for scholarships for the 2014-15 school year is July 15.

The bill increases the scholarship amount; removes the requirement that students must have been in public school the year prior in order to qualify; and, beginning in 2016, offers partial scholarships to working-class families.

Step Up For Students, the nonprofit that administers the tax credit program, has awarded more than 330,000 scholarships since the Florida Legislature created the program in 2001.     Nearly 70 percent of the recipients are Hispanic or African-American.

Some of them attend Fort Lauderdale’s Mount Bethel Christian Academy, which was co-founded by Bishop C.E. Glover. “At our school, we see the success stories every day, and we hear from the parents every day,” Glover wrote in an op-ed for the South Florida Sun Sentinel in March. “Over the years, we expanded our school to accommodate more students because parents told us their children were thriving here. We know other schools are hearing similar things from other parents.”

Statewide, the total number of scholarships has more than doubled statewide since 2009. In Broward County, the number has increased from 1,998 to 4,829 over that same time span.

Here are more details about changes to the program:

    Scholarship amounts: The maximum scholarship will increase this fall to $5,272. That’s 76 percent of the core funding for each student in Florida public school. For the 2015-16 school year, the pro-portion will increase to 80 per-cent. And under a change in the just-signed bill, the pro-portion will increase to 82 percent in the 2016-17 school year.

    Eligibility requirements: Under current law, students in grades six-12 who want a scholarship must have attended a Florida public school in the previous year, even if they meet the income guidelines. The just-signed bill eliminates that requirement.

    Partial scholarships: Currently, scholarships are only available to students whose house-hold incomes qualify them for free- or reduced-price lunch, which is 185 percent of the federal poverty level and about $43,000 for a family of four. But beginning in the 2016-17 school year, partial scholarships on a sliding scale will be available to students whose household incomes are up to 260 percent  of poverty, which is $62,010 for a family of four. Priority will still be given to students whose household incomes are below 185 percent of poverty.

The bill signed into law by Gov. Scott also makes other changes. It provides more scholarship opportunities to children in foster care, and adds new state oversight to scholarship funding organizations such as Step Up For Students. It also creates a new type of educational choice program, called personal learning scholarship accounts, for K-12 students with one of eight disabilities: autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, intellectual disability, Prader-Will syndrome, Spina bifida, high-risk child, or Williams syndrome.

To find out more about the program and the changes, please visit the Step Up For Students website at www.stepupforstudents.org.

 

 

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    About The Author

    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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