Editor’s Note: This story originally ran Sept. 16, 2015 on the redefinED blog, which is hosted by Step Up For Students, and is an education blog dedicated to recasting the way we perceive public education.
The incoming speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives laid down a marker on Wednesday, signaling plans to push for broader school choice.
Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Lutz, was officially chosen by his colleagues to lead the chamber after next year’s elections. During his designation ceremony, he said the education system has systematically short-changed poor and minority families.
“We need to fully fund the right of every parent to make the decision that they know best — what learning environment is best for their child,” he said. “That’s how we open up the doors to a brilliant future for every student in this state.”
Corcoran didn’t lay out specifically what his proposal would look like. His prepared remarks, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times’ Buzz blog, suggest he supports multiple options, public and private, but his speech was more about laying out principles than delving into details.
Corcoran himself is a home-school father, and his wife helped start a charter school in Pasco County.
“A decades-long, one-size-fits-all school system promulgated by bureaucrats has failed to deliver on the promise of opportunity for all,” he said in his speech. “Separate-but-unequal may no longer be the law, but it’s all too often the reality. A world-class education should not be only within the reach of rich people.”
Afterward, reporters pressed Corcoran on the implications of his remarks (see around 6:55 of this video).
In 1999, Florida passed its first school voucher program, which the state Supreme Court found unconstitutional in 2006. In 2001, the state created a tax credit scholarship program, which the statewide teachers union and other groups sued to stop last year.* Courts have also blocked attempts to create a statewide charter school authorizer.
Corcoran told reporters he disagreed with past court rulings that held the state constitution can restrict school choice, and said he would be undeterred by the prospect of a lawsuit.
“Listen, half the stuff that we do nowadays that’s controversial is litigated by some group, entity or whatever, but it doesn’t mean that we should stop moving (toward) something that we know will transform people’s lives in our state,” he said. “We’re going to go down that path with the firm belief that it’s constitutional.”
*The author of this post works for Step Up For Students, which helps administer the tax credit scholarships.
Since the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship was created by lawmakers in 2001, more than 400,000 K-12 scholarships have been awarded to low-income children seeking access to additional educational options. These scholarships would not have been possible without the support of corporations who have donated more than $2 billion to the program.
This year alone, about 78,000 students are using scholarships administered by Step Up For Students, a state-approved scholarship funding organization, to attend the schools of their choice.
“While those numbers and our accomplishments helping children are impressive, Step Up For Students wants to do even more,” said Alissa Randall, Step Up’s chief marketing officer and vice president of advancement. “We don’t want to only hand out scholarships, we want increase the value of those scholarships by creating programs and tools that enhance our students’ overall academic experience.”
Florida Tax Credit Scholarships are funded through corporations that have state tax liabilities in Florida. Corporations may donate up to 100 percent of certain corporate tax liabilities and earn dollar-for-dollar tax credits for their contribution to state-approved scholarship funding organizations such as Step Up. By law, Step Up must use at least 97 percent of the corporate contributions for scholarship funds; up to 3 percent of the remaining funds may go to administrative costs.
This small administrative fund has never been sufficient to enable Step Up to provide the level of service families and schools deserve, which is why Step Up has always raised private funds to support its efforts, Step Up leaders say. This is why Step Up is redoubling these fundraising efforts through a new initiative called Stepping Beyond, Boosting Success.
“This new fundraising effort will help students maximize the impact of their Step Up scholarship and help them reach their full potential,” said Randall, who is leading this effort. “These additional dollars will help provide much-needed support services for our scholars. We plan on providing tools for students, parents, and teachers to work together to enhance the child’s success.”
This new fundraising initiative will seek out philanthropic individuals, corporations and foundations that cannot donate through the tax credit program, but have an interest in Step Up’s quest to provide more and better educational options for all disadvantaged children.
Through its Office of Student Learning, Step Up offers educational support services and professional development to strengthen partnerships between home and school. As part of the Stepping Beyond, Boosting Success initiative, Step Up will build upon these initiatives to better ensure all scholarship students are receiving the quality education that best meets their needs.
“’Every child deserves a chance to succeed’ is one of our most important values,” Randall said. “We want to bolster that chance.”
The modern Labor Day has long been associated with the official end of summer, and it wasn’t so long ago that most schools, public and private and those in between, waited until this holiday passed before opening the doors to another school year. Now, most of us know it as the first Monday off from what has been a very short school year so far.
It’s a day of backyard barbecues, family gatherings, trips to the beach and yes, another reason for retailers of many kinds to have a big sale. But what many people don’t know is the history behind the day celebrated the first Monday of September year after year. The funny thing is the first Labor Day was actually celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, but that changed two years later. After all, we certainly like those long holiday weekends
So here are some helpful links to learn a bit more about the history of Labor Day:
Happy reading and Happy Labor Day! Be safe, everyone!
Editor’s Note: Step Up For Students would not be able to provide life-changing scholarships to low-income Florida children without the help of our generous corporate donors. Occasionally, we highlight the corporations that partner with Step Up to give K-12 schoolchildren educational options beyond those dictated by a student’s ZIP code, or income level through, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Today, we highlight Allegiant Travel Company.
Allegiant Travel Company specializes in linking travelers in small, underserved cities to world-class leisure destinations through its low-cost, high-efficiency, all-jet passenger airline. The company also offers other travel-related products such as hotel rooms, rental cars, and attraction tickets.
The company, which became publicly traded in 2006 under Allegiant Travel Company (NASDAQ: ALGT), also offers low-cost travel packages and has a strong presence in Florida.
“It allows working-class folks to use their local airport and fly and travel in a way that was previously economically not in their reach,” said Brian Davis, Allegiant’s vice president of marketing. “Most of the travelers we serve are budget-conscious vacation travelers, who come to town on Allegiant and are able to have a fantastic trip that’s within their budget.”
Since 1997, that’s exactly what Allegiant has been doing and now serves 107 cities throughout the U.S. Florida has become a vital part of Allegiant’s operations, serving Orlando, Jacksonville, Palm Beach, Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach and St. Petersburg-Clearwater, where Allegiant recently added several new flights. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the airline’s first flight to Florida at the Orlando-Sanford International Airport.
“As our presence has grown in Florida, it’s important to give back to a community that has served us so well, and we feel we have very much become a part of over the years,” Davis said.
This was a key factor in the company deciding to partner this year with Step Up For Students, which helps administer the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program for low-income students. Allegiant has contributed $1 million to Step Up. The donation will provide about 170 students with scholarships worth up to $5,677 for the 2015-16 school year to help with tuition at participating private schools. Or, students may instead choose a scholarship worth up to $500 to help with transportation costs to out-of-county public schools.
“This demonstrates our commitment to the state of Florida,” Davis said. “This helps us go beyond just flying into the state. We are able to give back through education. Education is so important and that’s why we’re investing in it.”
Allegiant’s primary charitable focus has been working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was an ideal fit, Davis said, because the majority of wishes require travel, something Allegiant could easily provide. On a smaller scale, the company has worked with local schools near its headquarters in Las Vegas, organizing book bag drives and other activities. Partnering with Step Up was the next step that made sense, he said.
“We are so grateful to Allegiant for their generous contribution and commitment in helping us provide educational options to students in Florida who need it most,” said Step Up President Doug Tuthill. “We’re excited about this upcoming school year and watching our scholarship programs grow with new donors like Allegiant. There’s no better investment than in the education of our children.”