Parents FIND SCHOOLS & AFTER-CARE
Education Options in the States: State Programs That Provide Financial Assistance for Attendance at Private Elementary or Secondary Schools
Revised February 2009
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Florida

1. Florida-Opportunity Scholarship Program1

Program type: Scholarships for students in failing schools

Description: Created in 1999 under Florida's A+ Education Plan, the Opportunity Scholarship Program provides scholarships to students who attend or are assigned to public schools considered failing under state law. A Florida public school is considered "failing" if it receives, in annual performance evaluations, a grade of F in any two of four consecutive years. Students may use scholarships for attendance at a participating private school or at a higher-performing public school (of grade C or better) within or adjacent to the student's district of residence. Participating schools must accept students on a religious-neutral basis, and may not require students to participate in religious activities.

Amount of assistance: To attend a participating private school, the annual scholarship amount is the local school district's per pupil operating cost or the receiving school's tuition and fees, whichever is less. For the 2005-06 school year, the average scholarship award was $4,205. Participating private schools must accept the scholarship amount as full payment of tuition and fees.

Number of participants: In the 2005-06 school year, 734 students received scholarships to attend 57 participating private schools.2 The 2005-06 school year was the last year that students were able to use the scholarships to attend private schools. See Judicial history for more information.

Authorizing statute: Florida Statute §1002.38

Legislative history: The program was signed into law in 1999.

Judicial history: On Jan. 5, 2006, in Holmes v. Bush, the Florida Supreme Court ruled to exclude the private school option from Florida's scholarship program on the grounds that it violates a constitutional requirement of the state to provide a uniform system of public schooling. The court's ruling took effect at the end of the 2005-06 school year. The ruling does not affect the program's public school option.

For more information, see: http://www.floridaschoolchoice.org/Information/OSP.

2. Florida—John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program

Program type: Scholarships to students with disabilities

Description: Named for former Florida Senate President John McKay, the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program provides scholarships to students who have attended a Florida public school and for whom an Individualized Education Program (IEP) has been written in accordance with rules of the state board of education. Students may use scholarships to attend a participating private school or may attend another public school within or adjacent to the student's district of residence.

Amount of assistance: To attend a participating private school, the annual scholarship amount is the estimated calculation of the amount the student would have generated in the assigned public school or the amount of the private school's tuition and fees, whichever is less. For the 2007-08 school year, the average scholarship award was $6,613.3 Parents may provide tuition and fee funds in excess of the scholarship amount, if necessary.

Number of participants: During the 2007-08 school year, 19,852 students received scholarships to attend 846 participating private schools. During the 2008-09 school year, 17,904 students received scholarships to attend 839 participating private schools.4

Authorizing statute: Florida Statute §1002.39

Legislative history: The program was signed into law and implemented as a pilot in one county in 1999. It was expanded statewide, but with a cap for each school district, in 2000. The governing statute has been amended subsequently to strengthen the "parent-directed" intent of the program. In 2001, the law was amended to allow parents who believe their student is not progressing in his or her assigned public school to notify the local school district of their intent to participate in the program; previously, parents had to document that the student was not progressing in two areas in his or her IEP. A second 2001 amendment repealed the cap on the number of McKay scholarships available in each district.

Judicial history: No legal suits have been filed regarding the program.

For more information, see: http://www.floridaschoolchoice.org/Information/McKay.

7. Florida—Corporate Tax Credit Scholarships Program

Program type: Tax credits to corporations for contributions to scholarship organizations

Description: Under the Corporate Tax Credit Scholarships Program, corporations may receive Florida tax credits for charitable contributions to nonprofit scholarship funding organizations (SFOs). The amount of credit is equal to the amount contributed and may not exceed 75 percent of tax due for the taxable year. Under the authorizing statute, beginning July 1, 2008 and thereafter, the total amount of tax credits that may be granted each state fiscal year is $118 million. Tax credits are awarded to corporations on a first-come, first-served basis.

SFOs provide scholarships for attendance at a participating private school or for transportation to attend a public school outside a student's district of residence. Participating private schools must be deemed compliant with state laws and regulations by the state. To be eligible, a student must qualify for free or reduced-price lunches under the National School Lunch Program and meet one of the following criteria: was counted as a full-time equivalent student during the previous state fiscal year for purposes of state per-student funding; received a scholarship from an eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization or from the state of Florida during the previous school year; is eligible to enter kindergarten or first grade; or is currently placed, or was placed during the previous state fiscal year in foster care. A student may continue in the scholarship program contingent on funds and as long as the student's household income level does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Amount of assistance: To attend a participating private school, SFOs provide annual scholarships of $3,950 or the cost of tuition and fees, whichever is less.

Number of participants: In the 2007-08 school year, 21,493 students received scholarship from three SFOs to attend 933 participating private schools. In the 2008-09 school year, 20,810 students received scholarships from three SFOs to attend 937 participating private schools.5

Authorizing statute: Florida Statute §220.187

Legislative history: The tax credit program was signed into law on May 30, 2001. It was first implemented in the 2002 taxable year. A 2003 amendment to the authorizing statute raised the maximum aggregate amount of credits allowed from $50 million to $88 million. The maximum amount, or cap, was reduced to $50 million for the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years by separate appropriations legislation. A budget measure for fiscal year 2006, signed into law on May 25, 2005, restored the cap to the statutory $88 million amount. In 2008 the Florida legislature expanded the program to $118 million for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Judicial history: No legal suits have been filed regarding the program.

For more information, see: http://www.floridaschoolchoice.org/Information/CTC.

1 The private school scholarship component of this program was terminated at the end of the 2005 -06 school year.

2 Data are as reported in the Opportunity Scholarship Program, June 2006 quarterly report, by the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, Florida Department of Education.

3 Data are as reported in the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program, June 2008 quarterly report, by the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, Florida Department of Education.

4 Data are as reported in the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program, September 2008 quarterly report, by the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, Florida Department of Education

5 Data are as reported in the Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program, September 2008 quarterly report, by the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, Florida Department of Education.


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Last Modified: 04/30/2009