Florida education reformer joins Step Up For Students board


A prominent figure in Florida’s education reform movement has been tapped to help oversee the largest private school choice program in the country.

Patricia Levesque last month was elected unanimously to the governing board of Step Up For Students, the non-profit that administers tax credit scholarships and Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts for more than 70,000 students (and co-hosts this blog).

Levesque is CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which Jeb Bush founded before he was elected Florida’s governor.

Before joining the foundation in 2007, she was a key member of the legislative staff that helped enact Bush’s first-term education agenda. She then joined the governor’s office as an education policy adviser in 2002.

Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up, said Levesque was recruited for the position because she’s “one of the country’s leading thinkers when it comes to personalized learning,” which he believes is important terrain for the future of education policy.

This year, she was an outspoken advocate for legislation creating the scholarship accounts, which gives families of students with significant special needs a way to pay for a mix of educational expenses, from therapies and private school tuition to curriculum and private tutoring.

“A more customized approach – whether choosing the school, supports or services that meet a child’s needs – is a good thing,” Levesque said in a statement. “It breaks down barriers to success and gives parents the power to help their children reach their full potential.”

Florida is the second state to create a personal scholarship account program. Many advocates view similar programs as part of the next wave of parental choice.

Levesque joins an eight-member, all-volunteer governing board, which last year added former Democratic state Sen. Al Lawson.