Families can apply for Florida’s new reading scholarship next week

Lawmakers created the program for elementary school children who struggle on the state reading test.
[DIRK SHADD | Times]
[DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Aug. 6, 2018|Updated Aug. 7, 2018

New scholarships for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders who struggled on the state's reading exam are not facing delays similar to those for students who claim to have been bullied in school.

Parents will be able to apply for the Reading Scholarship, created in the spring, on Aug. 13.

On a first-come, first-served basis, eligible students who scored a 1 or 2 on the 2018 third- and fourth-grade language arts Florida Standards Assessment will be able to get up to $500 to help pay for tutoring, materials and supplies aimed at improving their reading skills.

Special priority will be given to students who are English language learners.

Step Up For Students, the state's primary scholarship funding organization, accept only online applications. Until the registration begins, families can sign up to indicate their interest in the program.

The reading scholarship is one of the state's few scholarship programs aimed at children who remain in public schools. Others, including the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, focus on giving families money so they can afford private schooling.

The program for children who claim to be bullied is a hybrid, as it would provide about $7,000 for students to transfer to a private school, but also a smaller amount to pay for transportation if they choose a different public school instead.

Sponsors of the reading scholarship have said they wanted to give families an opportunity to find added help quickly, so their children can get back on track in their reading skills without relying solely on their schools.

The Legislature allocated $9.7 million for the program. Last year, 187,169 students scored below Level 3 on the third- and fourth-grade language arts tests — about ten times more than the money could support.

Related coverage: New Florida scholarship aims to boost third-grade readers