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How to Use the Step-Up Scholarship to Fund Private School Tuition

How can parents use the Stepup Scholarship in Florida

Quality education for children is of utmost importance; unfortunately, however, many families cannot afford private school tuition. Florida has made great strides toward making private education affordable and accessible to students who face special circumstances, such as bullying or have special needs or fall below average scores on standardized test scores.

One of the most sought-after scholarships for families in Florida is the Step-up Scholarship administered by Florida’s leading school choice nonprofit, managing five scholarship programs that account for nearly 99 percent of scholarships awarded throughout the state. Each has different requirements that must be fulfilled, so parents should familiarize themselves with them all as soon as possible.

Parents can subscribe to the Step-up Scholarship Interest List to stay informed about application season and deadlines for Step-up Scholarships. In order to be eligible for one, students must meet certain requirements such as those listed here:

Once their scholarship funds become available, families should log on to their Education Market Assistant (EMA) portal to access pre-approved services and products that can be ordered at pre-approved prices and submit reimbursement requests for expenses incurred. In addition, through Step-up Scholarship program families can use these funds for transportation expenses when attending public schools outside their district as well as tutoring, textbooks or therapy treatments.

The Step-up Scholarship is a need-based program, meaning applicants will be assessed according to how many members in their household qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Parents who do not meet this threshold may still qualify for other assistance through Family Empowerment Scholarship, reading scholarships, or Hope Scholarship for students with disabilities.

Step-up Scholarship recipients have access to hundreds of private schools across Florida – such as Lakeside Christian School in Clearwater – offering Step-up scholarships that allow families to select an educational setting that best fits their child’s learning style and needs.

Although the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTCS) remains the flagship scholarship offered through Step Up Scholarships, other options exist as well. One such is PEP which serves as an educational savings account to provide funding for students who do not attend public or private schools full time and cannot qualify for FTC Scholarship.

PEP is administered by Step Up for Students and was the first program of its kind nationwide. They also oversee the HOPE Scholarship and Florida Reading Scholarship programs.

Florida Citizens Alliance issued a letter on Thursday calling for an end to Step Up’s “monopoly” of education voucher funding, noting the organization’s 2020 partnership with Equality Florida – an LGBTQ advocacy group – which involved training private schools that accept Florida state scholarships to create inclusive environments for students of diverse backgrounds. President of Step Up Doug Tuthill dismissed any call to disband Step Up by noting how its boss John Kirtley has close ties to many politicians including Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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