Florida’s scholarship programs empower parents, students

About 40% of the students at Autism Inspire Academy in Clearwater, Florida, attend on Florida scholarships for students with special needs. The school’s popularity among families has spurred plans for the K-8 school to add a ninth-grade class in 2022-23, and to become a K-12 academy within seven years.

Editor’s note: This commentary from Gina Lynch, chief operating officer and executive vice president for information technology at Step Up For Students, appeared today on heraldtribune.com.

Bob Dylan wrote that you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. In Florida, the winds of change in public education clearly are favoring parental choice – and it’s not necessary to put a moist finger in the air to detect the trend.

Just look at the following numbers as of Sept. 18 via Step Up For Students, the nonprofit for which I work that manages Florida’s four K-12 scholarship programs:

  • So far this year more than 239,500 students started applications for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship or the Family Empowerment Scholarship – both of which serve lower- and middle-income families, dependents of military service members and foster and adopted children. That’s a 36% increase from this time last year.
  • A record 150,407 students have enrolled in a private school with a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship or Family Empowerment Scholarship, an increase of 20% from this time last year. The number of low- and middle-income students attending K-12 private schools with a scholarship from Step Up For Students has nearly doubled since 2015.
  • More than 35,800 students started applications for the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities – and 25,820 students were awarded scholarships, Both figures are record highs, and once again demand has outpaced state funding. Currently 2,722 unique abilities students are on a waitlist for a scholarship.

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