ORLANDO – Renee Oliver started sending her children to St. Andrew Catholic School in 2004. At the time, it drew Catholic families from surrounding communities in the western part of Orlando. But it remained financially out of reach for many who lived nearby.
Over the years, that’s changed.
The nation’s largest private school choice program has enabled schools like St. Andrew to open their doors to hundreds of families who couldn’t previously afford tuition, including some from its predominantly black neighborhood of Pine Hills.
“The school community came to reflect the community that it was in,” Oliver said.
She had to support her family on a single income after an on-the-job injury forced her husband out of work. Tax credit scholarships helped her send three of her five children to St. Andrew.
When President Donald Trump came to visit the school on Friday, she told him similar options should be available to all families.
Started in 2002, the tax credit scholarship is administered by Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog and pays my salary. It helps nearly 98,000 students across Florida — and the vast majority of students at St. Andrew — attend private schools.
While he hasn’t backed a detailed plan, Trump made a pitch to expand similar programs across the country. Parents like Oliver joined him around a table with Sen. Marco Rubio. The president expressed interest in the lawmaker’s efforts to create a nationwide tax credit scholarship.
At one point, Trump turned to Denisha Merriweather, a Florida scholarship alumna he highlighted during his recent address to Congress.
“We want millions more to have the same chance to achieve the great success that you’re achieving, right now,” he said.
Latrina Peters-Gipson, St. Andrew’s principal, is a product of Catholic schools. She developed a love of education as a college student in New Orleans. Weeks into her first year as a full-time classroom professional, Hurricane Katrina struck. Her family lost almost everything. The storm destroyed the Hyatt hotel where her husband worked. The hotelier helped her family relocate to Orlando. Continue Reading →