School Choice in Florida Helps Low-Income Families

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from NCPA,

Florida’s school choice program has been under fire from unions since August, when the Florida Education Association and other groups filed lawsuits challenging the state’s tax credit program.

Florida’s tax credit program allows corporations to voluntarily donate money to nonprofit groups who provide educational scholarships to children of low-income families — in return for those donations, the corporations receive a tax credit. The program began in 2001. Since then, 400,000 students have used the program to attend a private school of their choice. Almost 69,000 students received scholarships this year after businesses donated more than $357 million to the program.

According to Brittany Corona, research assistant at the Heritage Foundation, the unions claim the program gives aid to private and sometimes religiously-affiliated schools, violating the state’s constitution. The plaintiffs see the program as giving public support to religious education. But Corona contends that’s not so, as the program is funded entirely through private contributions, not public funds.

Florida’s program grants children educational opportunities they would otherwise lack; over half (54 percent) of the students receiving scholarships come from single-parent families with household incomes of just $24,067. According to Corona, a 2011 study found that children in the scholarship program were performing “slightly better” than their counterparts in traditional public schools, and other studies have indicated that Florida public schools are improving due to competition created by school choice in the state.

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