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Florida School Choice Scholarships Expanded

Florida law permits families to utilize various scholarships as an aid in covering their children’s educational expenses, one being the Step-up Scholarship aimed at low-income students who require extra support in choosing an optimal learning environment for themselves. Families should regularly check Step-up’s website to see when applications can be submitted; new families should also look into applying for Family Empowerment Scholarship.

This scholarship gives families the ability to use funds from their ESA for educational expenses such as tuition for private school, homeschooling options, therapies and tutoring; depending on the child’s individual needs this could potentially cover 100% of tuition expenses through this program.

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program is the nation’s premier private school choice scholarship, providing eligible Florida students a scholarship to attend participating schools like Lakeside Christian School. Parents also have the option of using their scholarship towards private education expenses not covered by other programs such as Personalized Education Plans.

Florida lawmakers recently passed House Bill 1 to expand school choice and voucher programs in the state, giving parents more chances to select an ideal learning environment for their child(ren). Furthermore, this bill will increase available money to families using these programs while also prioritizing priority funding for lower income students. It is expected to become law this year with its implementation set for 2023.

As Florida moves towards a consolidated system of school choice and vouchers, Step Up is providing transition assistance to both students and educators. Starting this fall, they will administer four scholarships: Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for lower income families; Family Empowerment Scholarship (formerly Gardiner); Hope Scholarship; Reading Scholarship Accounts program (3rd-5th Grade Public School students who struggle to read).

Step Up for Students team announced in a statement they have been diligently working to improve the experience for both families and schools, making changes such as those below in this year’s programs:

To streamline the process, this organization will now manage Florida’s school choice programs under one umbrella organization and manage one application for all options available to applicants. They will work closely with the Florida Department of Education to assess eligibility before sending application status updates directly to your email address associated with an EMA account.

Step Up will ensure students have access to the highest-quality education opportunities possible by providing complete transparency and oversight of its programs. Step Up is accountable to both the Florida Legislature and audited annually; additionally, Step Up must comply with Florida law as a “Scholarship Funding Organization,” such as being transparent about its spending practices while adhering to applicable state nonprofit regulations.

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