Archive | Tax credit scholarships

Scholarship, Kingdom Academy spurred turnaround for Miami student

Henezy Berrios

Eleven-year-old Henezy Berrios’ sparkling brown eyes crinkle in the corners when she smiles, which is just about all the time. She has boundless, contagious enthusiasm. She loves to dance and crack jokes.

She’s the girl that everyone in school likes.

But you would have hardly recognized her in first grade at her neighborhood school in Miami. She was quiet and withdrawn, afraid to ask for help, made fun of because she couldn’t read.

The D’s and F’s and diagnoses of ADHD and dyslexia set off alarms for her mother, Liliana Arguello. She resolved to find a better fit for Henezy’s education, and thanks to a Step Up For Students scholarship was able to access a private school called Kingdom Academy. Continue Reading →


Florida’s private schools are growing at a faster rate

Florida’s private schools saw their biggest enrollment growth in 15 years.

Enrollment grew by 22,525 PreK-12 students in the 2016-17 school year. That’s a 6.5 percent increase over the previous year and the second-highest enrollment growth since 2000. According to the new report from the Florida Department of Education, private school students now make up 11.6 percent of all preK-12 students in Florida.

Enrollment ranged from 0 students in rural Liberty County to 76,022 in Miami-Dade. Continue Reading →


Tampa Catholic grad going from one scholarship to another

Cheyenne Daphney and mom DJ Ruhland celebrate after the graduation ceremony in downtown Tampa.

When she walked across the stage as a freshly minted graduate of Tampa Catholic High School a couple of weeks ago, Cheyenne Daphney looked out at the audience cheering in the downtown theater and thought about all the help she got along the way.

Her mom, DJ Ruhland; her basketball coach, Matt Rocha; her teammates; and the rest of her Tampa Catholic family – they were all there giving a standing ovation.

Cheyenne also thought about the tax credit scholarship that made private school possible, and how she will soon start a new scholarship this summer at St. Petersburg College. (Step Up For Students administers the scholarships and publishes this blog.)

“I’ve got butterflies,” she said after the ceremony. “I’m so grateful. Tampa Catholic turned me around. I really don’t feel I would have made it to college without Tampa Catholic or Step Up.”

In ninth grade at her neighborhood school, Cheyenne’s grades slipped so badly her mom told the basketball coach to bench her despite being the best player on the team.

The discipline didn’t work and Cheyenne’s grades continued to slide. She even earned an F in one class and had to take an online summer course to make up for it.

DJ decided to make a change.

She secured a Step Up scholarship, which helps low-income and working-class students pay for private school tuition. Then she enrolled Cheyenne at Tampa Catholic, something she had always dreamed of but never thought she could afford.

Results were immediate. Continue Reading →


The week in school choice

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was back on Capitol Hill. She faced more questions on school choice and civil rights.

“Schools receiving federal funds must follow federal laws,” was her refrain. Here’s what the law says now. Here’s another answer she could have given.

She also talked about the link between funding and outcomes.

DeVos was defending the Trump administration’s education budget. It includes a $250 million school choice initiative. Her home state of Michigan might miss the boat.

If Congress approves the federal scholarship funding, Michigan’s 47-year-old ban on state money going to private schools means the state couldn’t get a piece of the $250 million.

Choice supporters said they see two ways to remove or get around the prohibition, but they are long shots. The state Constitution would have to be changed or overruled, or Congress have would have to overhaul the federal tax code before Michigan could accept any federal scholarship money.

But mayonnaise ruled the news cycle.


We’ve reported on the changes that might be coming to Florida virtual education law. A mom explains what’s at stake. That eligibility expansion is part of a massive education package that looms over a special legislative session in Florida, even though it’s not on the agenda. Continue Reading →


The door to private school choice is already open

Once again, prohibitions on funding religion don’t stand in the way of school choice.

In the latest case, a Montana court ruled religious schools could participate in a tax credit scholarship program.

A group of moms backed by the Institute for Justice had challenged regulations that kept religious schools out of the program.

The Associated Press reported the ruling late last month:

[District Judge Heidi Ulbricht] found that the program is funded through tax credits, not appropriations, and the constitution does not address the use of tax credits. “Non-refundable tax credits simply do not involve the expenditure of money that the state has in its treasury,” Ulbright wrote.

Continue Reading →


Private schools enroll ‘the historically un-favored’

Private school leaders (Gant, second from left and Grammer, first from right) talk including at the American Federation for Children gathering.

From think tank reports to protests that greeted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in Indianapolis, a common thread binds many of the most stringent objections to vouchers and other school choice programs.

The arguments go something like this. Private schools don’t serve all students. They exclude vulnerable students. They contribute to racial segregation, and, in the wake of Brown v. Board, hatched voucher-like programs to evade integration.

Leaders of private schools that have begun to enroll tens of thousands of students who use vouchers to pay tuition see things differently. Most private school choice programs are aimed either at low-income students or those with special needs. Turning to these programs to boost enrollment has prompted some private schools to re-examine their identities as exclusive institutions.

“We’re in a new phase,” Vernard Gant, director of the ACE Student Success Center with the Association of Christian Schools international, said during a panel discussion hosted by the American Federation for Children. “Most of the growth that we’re now seeing in the Christian school movement is now happening among this very diverse student population.” Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Reading tests, achievement plan, budgets and more

Reading test results: About 90 percent of the state’s high school seniors who had to retake the Florida Standards Assessments language arts test have failed, according to the Florida Department of Education. Last year the number was 84 percent. Students must pass the test to be eligible to receive a diploma. The nearly 16,000 who failed this year can keep retaking the test until they post a passing score. Gradebook.

Achievement plan approved: The Pinellas County School Board approves a plan to eliminate or greatly narrow the achievement gap between white and black students within 10 years. The plan, worked out between the school district and the Concerned Organization of the Quality Education of Black Students, will also settle a long-running lawsuit over the education of black students by the district. The agreement addresses graduation, student achievement, advanced coursework, student discipline, identification for special education and gifted programs and minority hiring. District officials also have committed to providing quarterly progress reports and responding in a more timely manner with reliable information. Tampa Bay Times.

Education bill: More reaction from various groups, education officials and politicians on the Legislature’s education bill, which has yet to be sent to Gov. Rick Scott for consideration. Once it lands on Scott’s desk, he’ll have 15 days to act. Gradebook. Florida Politics. Politico Florida. Miami Herald.

Trump’s education budget: President Trump’s proposed budget would boost programs of school choice, especially charter schools, and cut spending for special education, teacher development, after-school programs and career and technical education. Associated PressEducation Week. NPR. Continue Reading →

Jeb Bush receives ‘overdue’ school choice award

INDIANAPOLIS – With an award described as “overdue,” a national school choice advocacy group recognized Jeb Bush for his contributions to the movement.

The former Florida governor received the John T. Walton Champions for School Choice award from the American Federation for Children today at its annual gathering.

A past recipient of the award — John Kirtley, the chairman of Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog — said Bush summoned him to Miami shortly after he started a Tampa-based offshoot of the Children’s Scholarship Fund in 1999. The governor recognized that the thousands of parents on the waiting list for scholarships could become foot soldiers in Tallahassee.

That conversation led to the creation of Florida tax credit scholarship program, now the largest private school choice program in the nation, in 2001. Continue Reading →