Tag Archives forlow-income

Celebrating 15 Years of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship: Graduate Chris Yother dreams to protect Americans

By GEOFF FOX 

step-up-15-logo_final-2Chris Yother could have slipped through the cracks.

A Merritt Island resident, he was one of nine children – and one of a set of quadruplets – born to Kate Brown and Michael Yother.

Unfortunately, Yother’s parents eventually divorced and money was tight. He had always been a conscientious student, but as high school approached, his mother decided she wanted the quadruplets educated at Brevard Private Academy (BPA), a local private school.

The Yothers applied for Florida Tax Credit Scholarships through Step Up For Students, and each of the quadruplets – Chris, Eric, Josh and Allison – were accepted.

At BPA, Chris Yother took dual-enrollment classes through Brevard Community College, now Eastern Florida State College,  and often tutored other students. By the time he graduated from high school in 2013, he had also earned an associate’s degree. chris-yother-grad

Now a 21-year-old senior at the University of Central Florida majoring in international relations, he still wants to help others.

After he earns his bachelor’s degree, Yother wants to join the U.S. Navy as a commissioned officer.

“Down the road, I’d like to the represent the State Department as a foreign service officer; that would be my dream job,” Yother said. “You represent the interests of Americans abroad, protect them and stand up for their rights.

“I’d love to be in France. I speak some decent French, but I really like the French culture. The opportunity to be stationed anywhere abroad would be an honor.”

His brothers, Eric and Josh Yother, currently serve in the U.S Navy and Marine Corps., respectively. Allison Yother has also considered a military career.

“We’re from a huge military family, and I almost joined right after high school,” Chris Yother said. “Both of my grandfathers were in the military and lots of uncles and a great-grandfather.”

Chris Yother said he and his siblings weren’t falling behind at their local public school, but a private institution seemed “more like a better fit,” adding that their ninth-grade transition to Brevard Private Academy “was very smooth.”

“I liked it a lot,” he said. “The big difference was (smaller) class sizes. The instruction was more personalized. The teachers could do more one-on-one stuff. The environment was modified to help the individual.

“In public school, we were having trouble connecting with the instructors and the material.”

Brown, Yother’s mother, was especially pleased with the change of environment for her quadruplets.

“With the one-on-one attention, they really learned and excelled,” she said.

Jenna Brocchini, an administrator at Brevard Private Academy, described Chris Yother as the most outgoing of his siblings. His positive effect on the small private school was almost immediate.

“He’s a friend to everybody and probably never had an enemy a day in his life,” Brocchini said. “What always struck me about him was he always had a very strong interest in politics. He actually went to see Obama speak” at Merritt Island in 2010.

“He camped out just to see the president speak. He was there the night before, and Obama didn’t speak until the afternoon. He was there in a camping chair and waiting for hours. A lot of kids that age don’t know much about politics or really care.”

As Yother prepares for his senior year at UCF, he is working at Office Depot, where he fixes computers in the technology department. He is also busy organizing paperwork for the Navy.

“It’s a rarity that I have much down time, although I did take a little break this summer,” he said. “I like to read a lot, stay home and still follow all the political stuff.”

And, he’s still helping people.

Brocchini said she recently posted a message on Brevard Private Academy’s Facebook page, asking if anyone could help set up computers at the school or offer technological support.

“Right away, he said, ‘I’ll come, anytime,’” she said. “He’s one of those people you rarely come across. He used to tutor his peers, and he wasn’t selfish with his counseling. He was always ready to help any of his friends. Public service is something I’ve always seen him doing.

“He’s a real humanitarian. I really feel like he’s going to have a successful future.”

Republic National Distributing Company contributes $55 million to Step Up For Students Scholarship Program

By PAUL SOOST

donor corner TAMPA – Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC), the nation’s second largest premium wine and spirits distributor, announced Monday a $55 million donation to Step Up For Students to provide scholarships for financially disadvantaged children in Florida.

Republic National Distributing Company Florida EVP Ron Barcena (second from left) presented Step Up For Students with a $55 million check at an event on Monday at Cristo Rey Tampa High School. Joining Barcena is Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill (second from right) and Step Up scholars Jeremiah Alexander, Steven Faison, Tamara Gumbs, Ziyah Hughes and Ariely Burgos.

The donation was announced Monday at Cristo Rey Tampa High School, a Catholic college-preparatory school and work study program for lower-income children in the Tampa Bay area. Of the 88 students attending Cristo Rey Tampa High School, 76 of them are recipients of the Step Up For Students scholarship.

RNDC State Executive Vice President Ron Barcena presented Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill with an oversized check representing the company’s $55 million contribution for the 2016-17 school year. The company’s donation, more than triple the amount of previous years, will fund more than 9,000 K-12 scholarships. The donation marks the fifth consecutive year that RNDC has partnered with Step Up, bringing its total to $115 million since 2012.

“As part of our commitment to social responsibility, we are focused on making positive differences that enrich the spirit and well-being of those in the communities we serve,” said Barcena. “We’re thrilled that this contribution will provide educational choices for lower-income Florida families, helping them set their children up for a successful future.”

From a truck driver to sales representative to human resources manager, a diverse group of RNDC associates attended the event with Barcena.

“We can’t do this without them,” Barcena said, adding it takes a strong effort from all parts of the business to be successful as a company, and the same is true for community engagement.

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State Sen. Darryl Rouson shakes hands with Cristo Rey freshman Ziyah Hughes while Tamara Gumbs, also a freshman, looks on.

State Sen. Darryl Rouson attended the event at Cristo Rey to thank Republic National Distributing Company for supporting the community and lower-income students.

“Having received a private school education myself, I’m proud to see so many deserving students receiving the same learning opportunity, thanks to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program and to corporate donors like Republic National Distributing Company,” he said.

Rouson recalled a time as a boy he attended camp on the same grounds as Cristo Rey, and that he, too, went to Catholic school which led him to his successful career as a lawyer and a legislator.

“Saints walk among us daily and they come in the form of companies like Republic National Distributing Company and provide opportunities for children who need it,” Rouson said.

Steven Faison, an freshman at Cristo Rey Tampa High School shared his scholarship story during the event Monday with Republic National Distributing Company and Step Up For Students representatives.

Steven Faison, a freshman at Cristo Rey Tampa High School shared his scholarship story during the event Monday with Republic National Distributing Company and Step Up For Students representatives.

Steven Faison is one such student. The ninth-grader at Cristo Rey told the small crowd of guests at his school that while he went to a public magnet school, the overcrowding was troublesome for him. But private school seemed financially out of reach until he and his family learned about Cristo Rey and the scholarships through Step Up For Students.

“Education is very important to my family,” he said, “I plan to be the first in my family to attend and graduate from college.”

Step Up helps manage the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to qualified lower-income K-12 schoolchildren throughout Florida. The program allows recipients to choose between a scholarship to help with private school tuition and fees, or a transportation scholarship to attend an out-of-district public school.

“We are truly grateful for the generosity and support of Republic National Distributing Company. The positive impact they will have on more than 9,000 children this year alone is truly remarkable,” said Tuthill. “RNDC is a great partner, and on behalf of our families, we thank them for their continued support.”

During the 2016-17 school year, Step Up For Students is serving more than 95,000 students throughout Florida with tuition scholarships valued up to $5,886 per student. More than 1,600 private schools participate in the scholarship program statewide.

Step Up public relations and social media manager Lisa A. Davis contributed to this report. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HMSHost partners with Step Up For Students; contributes $400K

By PAUL SOOST

donor cornerBETHESDA, MD — Global restaurateur HMSHost has pledged $400,000 to Step Up For Students, a nonprofit that helps manage the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program for lower-income schoolchildren in  Florida.

HMSHost’s contribution will benefit children whose educational options are limited by household income, helping underprivileged children attend a K-12 school of their parents’ choice that better fits their learning needs. Parents can choose between a scholarship toward private school tuition and fees, or one to offset the cost of transportation to an out-of-county public school.hms-logo-footer

“HMSHost values education immensely, and investing in the local communities where we operate is extremely important to our company,” said HMSHost President and CEO Steve Johnson. “The Step Up For Students organization is doing important work in Florida and it is a privilege to have formed this partnership to help set up Florida youth for success.”

The scholarship program’s funding comes from tax-credited donations from corporations like HMSHost that do business in Florida.

“Thanks to HMSHost, 66 Florida schoolchildren will have the opportunity to attend a school that fits the way they learn, regardless of where they live or their parents’ income,” said Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill. “On behalf of Step Up and our families, we thank HMSHost for its generosity and we are grateful they have chosen to support our mission.”

Florida enacted the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program in 2001 to expand educational opportunities for children of families with limited financial resources. Since its inception, the program has grown exponentially and awarded more than 95,000 scholarships to economically disadvantaged students for the 2016-17 school year.

HMSHost operates restaurants in nine Florida airports and is committed to supporting state and local communities. Visit HMSHost’s location finder to see where HMSHost operates. Further details about HMSHost’s commitment to community relations can be found here:http://www.hmshost.com/community.

The company is a world leader in creating dining for travel venues. HMSHost operates in more than 120 airports around the globe, including 44 of the 50 busiest airports in North America. The Company has annual sales in excess of $2.8 billion and employs more than 37,000 sales associates worldwide. HMSHost is a part of Autogrill Group, the world’s leading provider of food & beverage services for people on the move. With sales of around €4.3 billion in 2015, the Group operates in 31 countries and employs over 57,000 people. It manages approximately 4,200 stores in over 1,000 locations worldwide. Visit www.HMSHost.com for more information. They can also be found on Facebook at fb.com/HMSHost and on Twitter at @HMSHost.

 

Students Spotlight: Alani Charles on a mission to help others

alanistep-up-15-logo_final-2By GEOFF FOX
Ten years after graduating from The Rock School, a K-12 Christian school in Gainesville, Alani Charles is working to ensure that some of Florida’s most vulnerable residents are cared for properly.

At 27, Charles is married to wife Tara and has a 4-year-old son, Olin. For several years, he and Tara Charles worked as family teachers at Boys Town North Florida in Tallahassee. Boys Town is a nonprofit that offers a variety of services to at-risk children and troubled families.

“We were basically like foster parents for four to seven children at a time,” Alani Charles said. “We’d take them to school, take them to dinner. Whatever was needed. I’ve always kind of had a desire to help people.”alani

A couple years ago, he accepted a new job as a licensing specialist at Daniel Memorial, Inc., in Jacksonville. Daniel Memorial is considered Florida’s oldest child-serving agency.

“What I do is I go out to foster homes and license them; I make sure they’re in compliance to take care of children,” Charles said. “I go into people’s homes. I make sure they’re up-to-date on training, and make sure that things like fire extinguishers and alarms are working. We ensure that parents have all their needs met, as well as the children. I make sure they have the basic necessities.”

While Charles was not raised in foster care, he had personal experience with a broken home, as his parents divorced around the time he entered high school. That left his mother, Maureen Charles, to alone raise Alani and her older son Carlos by herself.

Although Alani Charles wasn’t a troublemaker, he said that period of his life was full of distractions. He didn’t care much for his neighborhood school and was mostly out to have fun.

That’s when administrators at The Rock School in Gainesville told his mother about the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship through Step Up For Students. The scholarship provides financial assistance to low-income families for private school, or assists with transportation costs to attend a public school outside their home district.

Charles said he was comfortable going to The Rock School, as it is affiliated with his family’s church, The Rock of Gainesville.

Maureen Charles said her sons did well in school before they started attending The Rock, but that they both flourished there.

“The atmosphere (at The Rock) was a lot more challenging and people expected more of you,” Alani Charles said recently. “Between going to church and school, I was there six days a week.”

Not only did Alani Charles become co-captain of the basketball team, captain of the soccer team and a track and field participant, who competed in shot put and discus, but his study habits were also bolstered and refined.

The same went for Carlos Charles

In 2006, Alani Charles graduated from The Rock – in a class of 13 – with a 3.8 grade point average. He was named the school’s top scholar-athlete and won awards for exemplifying commitment, trust, excellence and leadership.

Jim McKenzie, principal at The Rock, said he is not surprised by Alani Charles’ continued success.

“He had a great experience here,” McKenzie said, adding that the former student still occasionally visits his old school. “We hope that his experience will be like that for a lot of the kids who come here on scholarship. (Alani) is just a really personable, charismatic guy – friends with everybody. He was always very compassionate and had a big heart; he’s like a big teddy bear.

“He had a big, larger-than-life personality that went with his (physical) stature, but he was very gentle, as well.”

Spurred by his success, Charles enrolled at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, where he graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

In May 2015, Carlos Charles graduated from Huston-Tilliotson University – a private, historically black university – in Austin, Texas, where he earned a degree in music, his mother said.

“He stopped (going to college), but he went back,” Maureen Charles said of Carlos. “I always told them you must finish what you start. It took him a little while, but he finished good and that’s the main thing.”

Both her sons have made her proud.

“If you work hard, it pays off. I always told them you don’t get anything for free.”

 

UnitedHealthcare donates $10 Million for Step Up For Students Scholarships

 

By PAUL SOOST

FORT MYERS, Fla.  – UnitedHealthcare on Tuesday donated $10 million to Step Up For Students, which will fund K-12 scholarships for nearly 1,650 financially disadvantaged school children throughout Florida.

Local chef and culinary instructor Melissa McCartney (back row third from left) led the 7th and 8th grade classes in making healthy after-school snacks as part of a healthy lifestyle presentation by UnitedHealthcare at Summit Christian School. Presenting the healthy snacks are (front row left to right) Step Up scholars Jensen Howell, Regina Pina, Ethan Godoy, (back row left to right) Step Up President Doug Tuthill, UnitedHealthcare CEO Nicholas Zaffiris, McCartney, Summit Christian School Principal Todd Zylstra, and Step Up scholars Manny Pina and Ethan Godoy. Local chef and culinary instructor Melissa McCartney (back row third from left) led the 7th and 8th grade classes in making healthy after-school snacks as part of a healthy lifestyle presentation by UnitedHealthcare at Summit Christian School. Presenting the healthy snacks are (front row left to right) Step Up scholars Jensen Howell, Regina Pina, Ethan Godoy, (back row left to right) Step Up President Doug Tuthill, UnitedHealthcare CEO Nicholas Zaffiris, McCartney, Summit Christian School Principal Todd Zylstra, and Step Up scholars Manny Pina and Ethan Godoy.

Local chef and culinary instructor Melissa McCartney (back row third from left) led the seventh and eighth grade classes in making healthy after-school snacks as part of a healthy lifestyle presentation by UnitedHealthcare at Summit Christian School. Presenting the healthy snacks are (front row left to right) Step Up scholars Jensen Howell, Regina Pina, Ethan Godoy, (back row left to right) Step Up President Doug Tuthill, UnitedHealthcare CEO Nicholas Zaffiris, McCartney, Summit Christian School Principal Todd Zylstra, and Step Up scholars Manny Pina and Joseph Martinez.

Nicholas Zaffiris, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of South Florida, announced the donation at a scholarship celebratory event at Summit Christian School in Fort Myers, where 42 students were awarded scholarships for the 2016-2017 school year. This is UnitedHealthcare’s seventh year participating in Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program through Step Up For Students, bringing the company’s total contribution to $69 million since 2009.

Step Up For Students is a nonprofit that provides scholarships for children in grades K-12, so they may attend a private school or an out-of-district public school that best fits their individual learning needs. During the 2016-17 school year, Step Up For Students expects to serve more than 94,000 lower-income students throughout Florida with tuition scholarships valued at up to $5,886 per student

“UnitedHealthcare is honored to partner with Step Up for Students to support scholarships that ensure more Florida students have access to quality education,” Zaffiris said. “We value the role schools can play in helping students understand the importance of good health as they evolve to become productive adults.”

Following the scholarship donation announcement, students at Summit Christian School traded in their pencils for spatulas during a healthy snacks cooking demonstration sponsored by UnitedHealthcare and Step Up For Students.

Local culinary instructor and owner of Method Teaching Kitchen Melissa McCartney showed seventh- and eighth-graders how to prepare tasty after-school snacks that can satisfy hunger and give them energy for extra-curricular activities and homework time. The program was designed to show the connection among nutrition, physical fitness and learning.

“The Step Up For Students Scholarship Program is positively shaping the future of our state’s children, and we could not do this important work without donors like UnitedHealthcare,” said Doug Tuthill, Step Up For Students president. “We are grateful for its support and generosity, and for the impact that UnitedHealthcare is making in our community.”

About UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, military service members, retirees and their families, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with 1 million physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at www.uhc.com or follow @myUHC on Twitter.

 

 

 

Reflections on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship’s 15th birthday

Editor’s note: This is the first post in a series celebrating 15 years of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Join us in the coming months as we take a look back on the program’s beginning and look ahead to serving more students in the future.

By JOHN KIRTLEY

john-kirtleyI’m not a baseball fan, but I love the movie “Bull Durham.” In the film, baseball groupie Susan Sarandon compliments Kevin Costner for approaching the minor league home run record. Costner remarks that it’s a dubious honor – it means he’s spent an awful long time trying to get to the majors. That’s how I feel sometimes when I realize I have been working for the cause of parental choice in education for 20 years. If I were any good at this, shouldn’t the job be done by now?

Nothing like the parental choice movement to make you appreciate incremental progress. But on the 15th anniversary of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC), I look around and see so much to be thankful for. When the Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush created the FTC in 2001, school choice in Florida was in its infancy. The definition of “public education” was pretty simple: raise taxpayer dollars to educate kids, give all the money to the districts – which run all the schools in a fairly uniform manner – and assign kids by their ZIP codes.

How far we have come since then. Today, more than 30 percent of K-12 children funded by the taxpayers don’t attend their zoned public school. They attend magnets, charters and virtual schools. They take classes under dual enrollment programs at colleges and community colleges. They now even combine providers and delivery methods at the same time. And yes, some children even attend private schools, including faith-based ones.

The FTC is a small but critical part of this new definition of public education. This year the program is serving 92,000 children, who are attending more than 1,600 private schools chosen by their parents. This sounds like a lot—and it’s more than I ever thought we would serve – but it’s still a pretty small number in context. There are 2.8 million students in Florida’s public schools (including magnets and charters). So the FTC still represents only 3 percent of that total. But to each scholarship family, it’s the most important thing in the world. Research shows the FTC kids are the poorest, and poorest performers, in their public schools when they leave. The scholarship empowers poor parents to find an environment that better suits their children’s unique needs.

The FTC – along with the McKay and Gardiner scholarships for special needs children – makes available an option that would otherwise be off the table: private and faith-based schools. My 20-year experience has taught me that these schools must be available to poor and special-needs kids. They aren’t for everyone, certainly – but for some of these kids, they are the only place they will thrive. I can’t tell you how many students over the years have told me, “I was going the wrong direction, but the environment at my school set me straight,” or words to that effect. These schools must be a part of our new definition of public education.

Back to the Bull Durham analogy: I would have thought that by now, after 20 years, everyone would have accepted and embraced the FTC. Especially with more than 30 percent of all publicly funded students choosing! But no. After all this time, and after all its proven success, there is a lawsuit to shut down the program and evict more than 92,000 poor children. Why would opponents to choice focus on the program with only 3 percent of the kids, and the poorest and poorest performers at that? Maybe because it’s the fullest expression of parental empowerment.

The silver lining to this lawsuit is that it has galvanized the scholarship parents and their community leaders to fight to maintain this precious power. More than 10,000 people came to Tallahassee this year the day after the MLK holiday to hear his son, MLK III, denounce the suit. Coalitions of over 200 African-American and Latino ministers around the state have formally demanded the suit be dropped. I am proud to be a foot soldier in this most important battle.

One of the many rewards of being in this movement is fighting with these choice warriors. Parents. Students. Teachers and Principals. Ministers. Names you will never know. Names you know, like MLK III and Jeb Bush. Names you should know, like the Rev. H.K. Matthews – one of Florida’s most revered civil rights leaders. All of them fighting for parental empowerment.

I am so grateful to all of them, just like I am grateful to all the legislators of both parties who have supported the program. I’m grateful to the donors who have embraced the program.  I am also so grateful to all the employees of Step Up For Students, who run the program with such transparency and accountability that has consistently earned a four-star rating – and this year a perfect score – from Charity Navigator, the largest independent evaluator of nonprofits in the country.  And I’m so grateful that a former president of the Pinellas teachers’ union decided to call me up in 2006 to discuss common ground. Doug Tuthill is now president of Step Up and ably running it as I never would be able to.

My dream when the program debuted was that it would survive (which was not certain in the beginning). Then my dream was that we would someday reach 100,000 children. Now my dream is more ambitious: that someday every low-income parent in Florida – and the country – will be able to choose the best school for their children, regardless of who runs it.

Happy 15th birthday, Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Congratulations, Step Up  For Students!

John Kirtley is founder and chairman of Step Up For Students.

 

 

 

Synchrony Financial donates $1 million to Step Up For Students Scholarship Program

By PAUL SOOST|

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS – Synchrony Financial, a premier consumer financial services company with an 80-year heritage, has announced a $1 million donation to Step Up For Students to provide scholarships for financially disadvantaged children in Orlando.

synchrony logoThe donation marks the first time that Synchrony Financial has partnered with Step Up For Students. Synchrony Financial’s contribution will fund about 165 K-12 scholarships for financially disadvantaged Florida children so they may attend a private K-12 school, or an out-of-district public school. The scholarships provide an opportunity for recipients to find a school that fits their individual needs and lead them toward a more prosperous future

“We’re pleased that this donation will provide children with a real opportunity for educational success. Synchrony Financial is committed to addressing the needs of today’s working families, which includes providing enriching and safe places for kids to be while their parents are working,” said Margaret Keane, Synchrony Financial president and CEO. “Educational opportunities are crucial to opening doors to hope for a better future. Working with Step Up For Students is a true embodiment of our purpose statement to improve the success of every business we serve and the quality of each life we touch.”

Step Up For Students helps administer the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to qualified lower-income K-12 schoolchildren throughout Florida. The program allows recipients to choose between a scholarship to help with private school tuition and fees, or a transportation scholarship to attend an out-of-district public school.

“We are truly grateful to have Synchrony Financial as a partner in our mission to ensure that lower-income children have choices in their education,” said Doug Tuthill, Step Up president. “With their help, we are providing access to Florida’s children to an educational environment that best fits their learning need, and will also positively affect our communities in the future.”

During the 2016-17 school year, Step Up For Students expects to serve more than 91,000 students throughout Florida, with tuition scholarships valued up to $5,886 per student. More than 1,600 private schools participate in the scholarship program statewide.

Synchrony Financial has had a presence in the Orlando area since 1983, and recently increased its commitment to central Florida this summer with the opening of a second site.

The original location in Longwood is primarily a customer support site.  The second location, in Altamonte Springs, will provide customer service and collections support across all of Synchrony Financial’s business platforms. The 102,000 square-foot space features training and conference rooms with advanced technologies including telepresence capabilities, an on-site dining venue and employee fitness center.

Synchrony Financial employees in the Orlando area have provided nearly 300 volunteer hours so far in 2016 with a number of local nonprofit agencies.

Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill (back row left) is presented with a $1 million check by Synchrony Financial representatives (back row left to right) client operations manager Susan Sepiol, vice president of corporate citizenship Denise Yap and vice president of operations Heath Arnsperger. They are joined by several of Synchrony Financial’s top community service volunteers.

Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill (back row left) is presented with a $1 million check by Synchrony Financial representatives (back row left to right) client operations manager Susan Sepiol, vice president of corporate citizenship Denise Yap and vice president of operations Heath Arnsperger. They are joined by several of Synchrony Financial’s top community service volunteers.


About Synchrony Financial

Synchrony Financial (NYSE: SYF) is one of the nation’s premier consumer financial services companies.  Its roots in consumer finance trace back to 1932, and today the company is the largest provider of private label credit cards in the United States based on purchase volume and receivables*. Synchrony Financial provides a range of credit products through programs we have established with a diverse group of national and regional retailers, local merchants, manufacturers, buying groups, industry associations and healthcare service providers to help generate growth for our partners and offer financial flexibility to our customers. Through its partners’ more than 350,000 locations across the United States and Canada, and its websites and mobile applications, the company offers its customers a variety of credit products to finance the purchase of goods and services. Synchrony Financial offers private label and co-branded Dual Card credit cards, promotional financing and installment lending, loyalty programs and FDIC-insured savings products through Synchrony Bank. More information can be found at www.synchronyfinancial.com, facebook.com/SynchronyFinancial, www.linkedin.com/company/synchrony-financial and twitter.com/SYFNews.

*Source: The Nilson Report (May 2016, Issue # 1087) – based on 2015 data.

 

 

 

 

Donor Corner: Humana Inc.

By Lisa A. Davis

New Humana logo (002)Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) is more than a health insurance company, it’s a healthy living leader that is committed to enriching the communities it serves both in serving its customers’ needs and promoting healthy lifestyles, as well as giving back to the communities through philanthropic opportunities.

The company, based in Louisville, Ky., is so committed to healthy living that it has recently introduced a “bold goal” to meet in only five years: Humana 2020, an initiative to help communities it serves to be 20 percent healthier by 2020.

“That’s an ambitious goal,” said Humana spokesman Mitch Lubitz. “And it’s one we’re committed to achieve.”

In addition to five other key Humana business markets throughout the country, this “bold goal” is set for the Tampa Bay area, where Humana employs nearly 4,000 associates and serves more than a half a million members in what is considered one of the company’s biggest Medicare and Medicaid markets. For this community initiative to be successful, Lubitz said, Humana must work closely with community thought leaders from government offices, community organizations and beyond to identify the health needs throughout the region.

Part of community wellness, Lubitz said, is education. Not just educating people to choose healthy lifestyles, but making sure children grow up with a solid educational foundation. Humana has worked with public school districts, including Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, through grants, to help foster healthy living among youngsters.

Humana first partnered with Step Up For Students in 2010 to support the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program to fund scholarships for K-12 low-income schoolchildren so they can find the best school for their learning needs. Since then, Humana has contributed $7 million, including its 2015 tax-credited donation of $3 million, which will provide about 500 scholarships.

“Education is an integral part of the conversation,” Lubitz said. “This is a great example of why we want to foster that mission of helping our youth and children to become better educated and have a healthier life. It’s very clear that Step Up For Students delivers positive results for the students and the community, and that’s something that makes sense to be part of as a major area employer and as a member of the Tampa Bay community.”

Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill said he is grateful to Humana and the partnership, especially since the two organizations’ programs help many people in the same populations.

“We are so thrilled with this partnership, and we think it will continue to be a strong one since programs like Medicaid benefit the same low-income families in which we are assisting in their children’s, and in many cases, grandchildren’s education,” Tuthill said. “We couldn’t be more pleased to work with Humana.”

Teachers unions, school choice & the Democratic Party’s retreat 

Editor’s note: This post originally ran Oct. 20 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.  This post was part of  its series on the center-left roots of  school choice

By Doug Tuthill

Pres-Desk_Final resizeMuch of the opposition to private school choice seems to emanate from the Democratic Party, but this wasn’t always the case. Just look at the party platforms.
From the 1964 to 1984, the Democrat Party formally supported the public funding of students in private schools.The 1964 platform stated, “New methods of financial aid must be explored, including the channeling of federally collected revenues to all levels of education, and, to the extent permitted by the Constitution, to all schools.” The 1972 platform supported allocating “financial aid by a Constitutional formula to children in non-public schools.” The 1976 platform endorsed “parental freedom in choosing the best education for their children,” and “the equitable participation in federal programs of all low- and moderate-income pupils attending all the nation’s schools.”

On Sept. 17, 1976, the NEA endorsed Jimmy Carter for president – the first presidential endorsement in the organization’s history. With this endorsement, it joined with the other major teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, to become a dominant force in the Democratic Party. Image from the Schell Collection.

On Sept. 17, 1976, the NEA endorsed Jimmy Carter for president – the first presidential endorsement in the organization’s history. With this endorsement, it joined with the other major teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, to become a dominant force in the Democratic Party. Image from the Schell Collection.

Thanks to the influence of U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat and devout Catholic, the party’s 1980 platform stated “private schools, particularly parochial schools,” are an important part of our country’s educational system. It committed the party to supporting “a constitutionally acceptable method of providing tax aid for the education of all pupils.” In 1984, the platform again endorsed public funding for “private schools, particularly parochial schools.”

Then the shift began. The 1988 platform was silent on the issue, and by 1992 the Democrats had formally reversed position, stating, “We oppose the Bush Administration’s efforts to bankrupt the public school system — the bedrock of democracy — through private school vouchers.”

The party’s current position on school choice was formalized in 1996. That year’s platform endorsed the expansion of public school choice, including charter schools. But it also reiterated “we should not take American tax dollars from public schools and give them to private schools.”

The Democratic Party’s shift from supporting to opposing public funding for low-income and working-class students in private schools can be traced back to an event that also helped spur the growth of modern teachers unions: The 1968 teachers strike in New York City.

This strike pitted the low-income black community of Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn against the primarily white New York City teachers union. The issue was whether local public schools would be controlled by the Ocean Hill-Brownsville community or by a city-wide bureaucracy.  The union vehemently opposed decentralization since its business model was built around a one-size-fits-all collective bargaining agreement with centralized management.

The strike lasted from May to November 1968. Given school districts are usually the largest employer in most communities, union power quickly grew.

Since its founding in 1857, the National Education Association had long seen itself as a professional association and not a union. But the spread of industrial unionism in school districts across the country forced the NEA in the 1970s to begin transforming itself into an industrial-style union.

On Sept. 17, 1976, the NEA endorsed Jimmy Carter for president – the first presidential endorsement in the organization’s history. With this endorsement, it joined with the other major teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, to become a dominant force in the Democratic Party. In exchange, former NEA president Richard Batchelder told me the NEA asked Carter to create a federal Department of Education, and to reverse the Democratic Party’s support of public funding for low-income and working-class students in private schools, among other things.

Changing this policy was complicated by the strong support of Sen. Moynihan and the Catholic Church.  But in the 1970s the power of the rapidly growing teachers unions was beginning to eclipse the influence of Catholics within the Democratic Party.

In 1977, Moynihan proposed a tuition tax credit for families with children in private and parochial schools, and he recruited 26 Republicans and 24 Democrats to co-sponsor the bill. But the Carter Administration worked with the teachers unions to successfully kill it.

A more recent version of this Catholics-versus-teachers-unions battle has been playing out in New York.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo has formed an alliance with the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, to advocate for a tax credit scholarship program to help low-income and working-class families. But the teachers union has had enough clout with Democrats in the State Assembly to twice defeat it.

Now, communities of color are becoming an increasingly important part of the Democratic Party coalition.  How long teachers unions can set the party’s education agenda in the face of growing influence from blacks and Hispanics who tend to favor educational choice is an intriguing question. Publicly-supported private school choice programs are expanding across the country, as are charter schools, which teachers unions also see as a threat to their business model. Eventually, wiser heads within the Democratic Party will want to address this rift.

In Florida, where more than 100,000 disadvantaged students are participating in private school choice programs, Democrats who oppose these programs have struggled to win statewide elections.

In the 1980s, I saw the NEA reverse its opposition to magnet schools and other forms of within-district school choice once a critical mass of teachers in these programs joined the union. I suspect the same thing will happen with private school choice once teachers unions expand their business models to include private-school employees.

Until that happens, their opposition to equal educational opportunity will remain at odds with the Democratic Party’s other core constituencies.