A Florida House panel this morning approved legislation that would create a new funding stream for private school choice scholarships.
The bill would allow businesses to contribute to scholarship funding organizations and in return receive a full credit for sales taxes they collect, in a manner similar to Enterprise Zone job credits. Those contributions would be made to state-approved scholarship funding organizations, including Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog.
The provisions would raise up to $150 million. The money would help fund Gardiner Scholarships, which provide education savings accounts to children with special needs, or tax credit scholarships, which help low-income and working-class students pay private school tuition.
Demand for both programs has outstripped supply. Step Up For Students received 181,000 applications for tax credit scholarships this school year, but the program only had funding available for around 105,000.
Meanwhile, the Gardiner Scholarship program exhausted all of its available funding for the first time this school year. There are now 1,300 students on Step Up For Students’ wait list for the program, and another 3,700 parents have expressed interest.
The program is funded through a line item in the state budget. Right now, both the House and Senate spending plans for next year would keep its funding at this year’s levels, with just over $100 million for scholarships, or more than $60 million below the projected need.