Setting the Record Straight on Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program

Today, POLITICO cited a release from the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee Democrats that claimed Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program “has faced many problems, including constitutional challenges in the courts, vast opposition by parents and civil rights organizations, fraud and corruption” and was a “waste of taxpayer funds.”
This couldn’t be further from the truth, and amounts to fake news. We previouslyset the record straight on school choice empirical research literature, and now we will set the record straight on Florida’s 15-year-old Tax Credit Scholarship Program.
Assertion: The Tax Credit Scholarship “faced many problems, including constitutional challenges.”
Facts:

  • The Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit in August 2014, challenging the scholarship program. The challenge was dismissed by the Florida Supreme Court in January.
  • To date, four state Supreme Courts and the U.S. Supreme Court have ruled in favor of tax credit scholarship programs, and none has ruled against.

Assertion: The Tax Credit Scholarship faces “vast opposition by parents and civil rights organizations.”
Facts:

  • Currently, 97,926 economically disadvantaged children are benefitingfrom the program.
  • The average household income of each student is $24,074, or 4.4% above poverty.
  • More than 70% of the students are black or Hispanic.
  • In response to the teachers union lawsuit, 200 of Florida’s leading black and Hispanic pastors and ministers formally denounced the challenge and spoke in favor of the scholarship.
  • In January 2016, more than 10,000 parents and children marched on the Tallahassee Capitol to protest the lawsuit. Martin Luther King III led the rally and march, and here is the video from the Black Alliance for Educational Options: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUVM1iNeseY   

Assertion:  The Tax Credit Scholarship faces “fraud and corruption.”
Facts:

  • Step Up For Students, the primary nonprofit that administers the program, has been awarded the coveted Four-Star rating by national watchdog Charity Navigator 10 different years, including the past five years in a row. It received perfect scores, 100/100, on both “Financial” and “Accountability & Transparency” ratings in 2016.
  • Step Up has received clean audits from top accounting firms for 15 consecutive years, and, under new legislation, clean audits the past two years from the state Auditor General.   

Assertion: The Tax Credit Scholarship is a “waste of taxpayer funds.”
Facts:

  • Five different independent organizations have analyzed the Tax Credit Scholarship and all have reported that it saves tax money that can be used to enhance traditional public schools.
  • The most definitive study, by the nonpartisan Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, found in 2008 that the state saves $1.49 for every $1 lost in revenue.
  • The Florida Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference projected that the scholarship saved the state $57.9 million in 2012-13.

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