PROGRAM — Florida Tax Credit Program

 Hi Doritha, could you tell us a little about Step Up for Students?

Step Up for Students helps pay for my kid’s tuition through a tax credit scholarship? A lot of companies donate and then that money comes to help pay for students to attend a private school.

How many kids do you have that are participating?

I have six participating in the Step Up for Students program, and one is coming up on the rise. I have seven kids altogether. My youngest is four. In a year he’ll be as well, but for now the rest of the six are participating.

Why is that opportunity important to your family?

My kids experienced a lot of bullying growing up, for various reasons. Because of that, and also in the neighborhood we live in, I can’t just send them to our district schools, they’re not great. So because of Step Up, I have a choice and I send them to whatever school I want and they can be in a good environment.

Do you feel like they’re learning?

Yes. I feel like this school is more personable. When they were in public school, I was at the school almost every day, talking to the principals and teachers. I didn’t like it because the teachers would collect homework one or two weeks after it was due. They would say, “oh, your kid didn’t turn in their homework.” Well, why are they collecting it two weeks after due? You know?

“We haven’t decided where she’ll go to high school yet, but because our school is K-12 and we have the Step Up scholarship, we get to make that choice. “

The classes was just too big. In our new school, the classes are smaller, and my kids are so much more knowledgeable. They understand the subjects and they don’t struggle. They want to go to school, even though when they were in public school, they didn’t want to go to school. Now they can’t wait to go. I love it. My oldest is fourteen and almost in high school. We haven’t decided where she’ll go to high school yet, but because our school is K-12 and we have the Step Up scholarship, we get to make that choice.

Do you think all families should have the opportunity to choose their schools? 

I don’t think anyone should be stuck where they are. If someone is stuck in a bad situation, I think our kids should have the opportunity to have a better education. I think every kid deserves that opportunity. All my kids struggled for several different reasons, whether it’s academic or the way they look, but when they get to go to a school that’s not in their neighborhood, they don’t have to worry about those kids bullying them. They get to see different cultures. They get to embrace their teacher because their teacher actually has the time to say, “hey, do you know this? Or are you having trouble? How can I help you?” It’s just amazing. I think every parent should have the choice of where their kids go to school. There’s a peace that you feel when your kids are in a good school. That too me is priceless.

“There’s a peace that you feel when your kids are in a good school. That too me is priceless. “

What would be your message to lawmakers who are considering policies that support choice?

I think lawmakers should definitely consider it, and that school choice should definitely stay in place. I would say if it wasn’t for a Step Up I would be in depression. Before the scholarship, I felt, you know, why me? I actually aged out of foster care, so I don’t have a families support system. I don’t have that support, but Step Up is supporting me and my kids. That’s more than anything my family can ask for. I would say, if anything, lawmakers need to support choice more.

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