Florida's voucher program for low-income students continues to grow
With a healthy added cash infusion this year, intended to allow more students to participate, Florida's corporate tax credit scholarship voucher program has gotten its expected results: It added 10,000 more children to its ranks, with another 11,000 on waiting lists.
It hit this mark by September, reports Step Up For Students, the organization that runs the program:
"The latest official report on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship places enrollment this fall at 48,938 students – a level that ranks the program among the nation’s top 100 largest school districts.
"The scholarship is not a district, of course; it serves students in 1,298 different private schools across the state. The students are not economically diverse, either; the scholarship is only for those who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and the average income last year was only 12 percent above poverty.
"So these enrollment numbers speak only to parental interest, and the trend is strong."
The districts with the highest participation are Miami-Dade (26 percent of all recipients), Orange (11 percent) and Duval (8.4 percent), generally tracking with the counties that have traditionally had the highest complaints about the schools serving poorer students. But participation overall is still just a drop in the bucket -- 3.6 percent of Miami-Dade students, for instance, and 3.3 percent of Duval students.
In our area, Hillsborough had 2,081 voucher recipients, Pinellas 1,751, Pasco 630 and Hernando 362 -- all hovering at just around 1 percent of their total enrollment. A committee of superintendents advising Gov. Rick Scott has put forth the idea of ending the scholarship program, but indications among lawmakers are that it is likely to continue if not grow.