School Choice Guidebook: Why School Choice Works in Florida

The American Federation for Children Guidebook, the most comprehensive guide to school choice programs across the nation, again ranks the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program the number one tax credit scholarship program in the nation. Having been involved with the Florida tax credit program since its inception, I am thrilled to see how it has grown and the incredible impact it is having on the more than 100,000 children it serves, as well as public education in Florida. As an advisor to AFC I utilize these annual comprehensive guides to educate community leaders and lawmakers on school programs in Florida and around the nation.

Many states have modeled their programs after Florida’s success. And while Florida now has over 100,000 students benefiting from the program, the AFC Guidebook ranking is based on many aspects besides just total number of students served by the program. Florida’s program earned the highest ranking possible in tax credit features and the highest ranking in the country for accountability.

Tax credit program features that garnered Florida’s program significant points include: the 100% tax credit allowed against numerous corporate tax liabilities for donations to an approved scholarship organization;the 20% automatic escalator of the cap if 90% of the cap is met; and the fact that 100% of most tax liabilities are eligible to be donated. Additionally, 97% of all funds raised in Florida’s program must be distributed as scholarships to eligible students – it’s one of a few programs that have such a low administrative allowance, which helps to ensure that the program serves as many students as possible.

Tax credit features encourage companies to partner with state scholarship organizations to provide the funds for scholarships, but it is Florida’s strong accountability that I am most proud of today.

Florida’s tax credit scholarship program has the most rigorous standards in the country which are models for other state programs. All students are tested and the results are reported to a research center and analyzed annually for academic gains of the students. Private schools must conduct level two background checks of employees and must demonstrate financial viability each year.

The families served by the Florida tax credit program are mostly black and Latino families with an average four person household income of $25,000. Many of these families would not have access to these schools were it not for this scholarship program. It truly is a lifesaving program.

Just ask Daymarelys Cabrera Gonzalez, a Cuban immigrant whose son Kevin attends Tampa Bay Christian Academy in Tampa. “Every day Kevin is excited to go to school and he is thriving in his school. I am so thankful for this scholarship and the difference it is making in Kevin’s life. I know his future is full of endless possibilities thanks to this scholarship,” Daymarelys said.

While I am excited for Florida’s number one ranking, it is the Florida families like Daymarelys’ that I am most proud to serve each day.