A Florida Voucher Nonprofit Rakes in the Dough

People often ask why politicians are so fixated on vouchers as a policy solution. This report from the League of Women Voters out of Florida helps explain:

For the past 20 years, a private organization has been growing exponentially using direct and indirect public funds largely out of public view. This organization is the conduit for an unregulated school system without standards being created by the Florida Legislature.

The organization is called Step Up for Students (StepUpForStudents.org), an SFO (Scholarship Funding Organization) that awards and manages tax credit scholarships for the state of Florida, as well as in Alabama. According to Forbes, Step Up is the 21st largest charity in the United States. To put that in perspective, the American Cancer Society is 18th. In 2019 Step Up and Subsidiaries had $697,363,075 in total assets.

Step Up began with a mission to award vouchers to low-income students to attend private schools. It has grown to include vouchers, now known as scholarships, for students with special needs, students who have been bullied, students who are homeschooled, and students with reading difficulties. The income threshold has been raised through the years to at least 300% of the poverty level, with no income threshold for homeschool or special needs students.

Step Up receives donations from corporations who receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on corporate and certain sales taxes owed to the state of Florida. Billions of dollars have been diverted to Step Up instead of having been deposited into General Revenue to operate state government, including public schools. These tax diversions have been cleverly labeled as “donations”

Take a look at that number: $697 million in assets. The 21st largest charity in America. Make no mistake, school privatization is big money. Huge. If you ever need evidence that those promoting the privatization agenda are in it for much more than what’s “good for kids,” here you go.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

For more on education policy issues, follow Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN

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