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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Single-gender magnets get a $200,000 boost in Hillsborough

TAMPA -- The man who runs Florida's tax-credit scholarship program, and speaks out at every opportunity about the benefits of private school vouchers for low-income students, has contributed $100,000 to a pair of public magnet schools in Hillsborough.

John Kirtley, president of Step Up For Students, said he was supporting the new single-gender academies at Franklin and Ferrell middle schools because they offer more educational choices to families. He described those programs as "proof that the district is committed to ensuring that even our most disadvantaged children have high-quality options."

The donation will be matched by $100,000 from Step Up For Students through a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, Kirtley said.

It was just last year that Step Up For Children joined forces with Hillsborough and its teachers' union in another orthodoxy-busting partnership to train private school teachers.

More from the district's news release:

"The efforts highlight the importance the school district places on meeting the individual needs of students, Kirtley said, adding that the Hillsborough County School Board and Superintendent MaryEllen Elia have been leaders in empowering parents to take advantage of high-quality choices in education.

“'For more than 13 years, I have worked to empower low-income families to be able to choose the right school for their children — whether that school is public or private,' Kirtley said. 'In the end, it's not important who delivers these choices, as long as they are high-quality, and as long as they are a good fit for the individual student. A middle school for girls may not be the right choice for all students, but for some it will be a game-changer in their academic and personal lives.'

"Superintendent MaryEllen Elia applauded Kirtley’s generosity and his vision in seeing how public-private alliances can benefit the schoolchildren who are most at-risk of failure.

"'In Hillsborough County, we believe all parents should have real choices about where their child attends school,' Elia said. 'I applaud John for his gift and share his belief that a high quality education and school choice takes many forms.'

"In 1998, Kirtley started his own foundation to fund private school scholarships for low-income children. In three months, his Children’s Scholarship Fund of Tampa Bay received 12,500 applications for 750 scholarships. In 2001, he helped to persuade the Florida Legislature to create the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, which allows companies to contribute to a scholarship funding organization such as Step Up For Students in exchange for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit. Today, Step Up For Students provides tuition assistance statewide to about 33,000 children who would qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch.

"Kirtley joined the board of the Hillsborough Education Foundation in September 2009. Five months later, he committed $100,000 to the RCMA Wimauma Academy, a charter school in Hillsborough County serving the children of migrant and farm-working families. The Walton Family Foundation matched Kirtley’s gift then, too. Step Up is matching Kirtley’s gift to Franklin and Ferrell middle schools with a grant it received from the Walton Family Foundation to help identify and forge partnerships with public schools."

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 5:18pm]

    

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