Editor’s Note: The following commentary was published today on the Georgia Public Policy Foundation Forum. It is in response to a previous Forum post by Georgia GOAL founder Jim Kelly.
Florida is one of 14 states that provide tax credit scholarships to children who can’t afford a private school, and a financial approach born of necessity has become one of its greatest strengths. Since the state has no personal income tax, its scholarship relies exclusively on tax-credited contributions from companies.
Those contributions, in turn, have fueled the largest scholarship program in the nation.
In its 13th year, the Florida program is now serving nearly 69,000 of the state’s most economically disadvantaged students in more than 1,500 private schools. The total contributions this year will approach roughly $350 million. In 2012, Education Week described the Florida scholarship law as a national “model.”
The scholarship serves truly needy students, and test scores show they are making solid academic gains. The average household of 3.8 persons has an income is $24,156, or 5 percent above poverty. More than two-thirds of the students are black or Hispanic, more than half from single-parent homes. More telling, these students were the lowest academic performers in the public schools they left behind, and for six consecutive years they have achieved the same standardized test score gains as students of all income levels nationally.