Florida is one of 11 states with a tax credit scholarship. Here’s how it works.
Students are eligible for the program if:
- Their family household income is no more than 185 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s about $43,500 for a family of four. In 2014, Florida lawmakers expanded eligibility — partial scholarships — to families earning up to 260 percent of the federal poverty level, or $62,010 for a family of four.
Businesses can take a tax credit for donations to eligible “nonprofit scholarship funding organizations,” according to state law. Businesses can claim credits for corporate income taxes, insurance premium taxes, alcoholic beverage excise taxes, direct pay sales taxes and oil and gas severance taxes.
Florida’s tax credit is more generous than many states, offering a dollar-for-dollar credit for donations. Other state credits range between 50 percent and 100 percent of the donation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A 2008 state analysis found Florida saved about $1.50 in state education costs for every dollar claimed in tax credits.
Tampa-based Step Up For Students awarded $86 million in private school scholarships in the 2013-2014 school year, according to its financial reports.That total will grow by 25 percent each year the program awards scholarships totaling at least 90 percent of the total revenue cap.
Awards are capped at $4,880, but will grow to 80 percent of the funding for a traditional public school student. Students can also receive up to $500 for transportation to attend public school in another district.
About 1,000 private schools participate in the program, according to Step Up For Students. Tax credit scholarship students account for about one-quarter of students in those schools.
More than 59,000 students are receiving scholarships as of February 2014, according to quarterly reports.