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Scholarships help families afford private education

step-upScholarships help families afford private education

STEP UP—Alexis Stewart, 14, a freshman, uses a Bunsen burner to bend a piece of glass capillary tubing as she learns how to make laboratory apparatus in Russell McDonald’s physical science class at Ocala Christian Academy on Thursday, April 2, 2015. With the process of registering/re-registering students for the 2015-16 school year already underway, 30 percent of private school students in Marion County will receive Step Up for Students scholarships (and other scholarships), well above the statewide average of 20 percent.  (Photo by Bruce Ackerman/Star-Banner)

By Joe Callahan, Staff writer

Rachel Foreman is a stay-at-home mom and seamstress, making a few dollars at home while her husband, David, works as a corrections officer.

The couple and their two small children moved to Marion County in October 2011 and fell in love with Meadowbrook Academy, a private K-12 school that serves 280 students in southwest Ocala.

Though they wanted to enroll their two daughters in the faith-based school, they knew they couldn’t afford it.

That was when the Foremans learned about Step Up For Students, an income-based Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program stipend that pays up to $5,272 per child per year for private tuition.

“We would not be able to attend Meadowbrook if not for the scholarship,” said Rachel Foreman, 31, whose daughters are now in kindergarten and third grade at the academy.

The Foremans are among a growing number of Marion County residents who are taking advantage of the tax credit scholarship program.

Participation has risen 33 percent in Marion in three years. Today, Marion has 1,418 Step Up students at 26 private schools, up from 1,232 in 2013-14 and 1,067 in 2012-13.

Among counties near its size — with 25,000 to 50,000 school-age children — Marion has the highest percentage of private school students who utilize the tax credit scholarship program.

In all, 30.7 percent of the county’s 4,445 private school students receive a tax credit scholarship. Lake County (24.1 percent of private school students receiving the scholarship) is a distant second among like-sized counties. The state aver-age is 20.6 percent.

Facts

Tax Credit Scholarships

Of counties with 25,000 to 50,000 school-age students, Marion County leads the state in the percentage of private school students who receive Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, such as Step Up For Students. Below lists the top 10 counties and percentage of private school students enrolled in the tax credit program.

County……………………. %

Marion…………………. 30.7

Lake……………………. 24.1

Escambia……………… 23.4

St. Lucie………………. 21.4

Manatee……………….. 19.9

Santa Rosa…………… 17.9

Clay…………………….. 17.8

Okaloosa……………… 14.6

Collier………………….. 11.9

STATE…………………. 20.6

 

SOURCE: Step Up For Students and Florida Department of Education.

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    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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