NON-PROFIT Spotlight On :
Step Up For Students
HOW IT STARTED
A Passion For Education Choice
In 1998, a young Tampa venture capitalist named John Kirtley discovered the lack of educational options available for low-income children and took matters into his own hands. Kirtley, working with the national Children’s Scholarship Fund, created the Children’s Scholarship Fund of Tampa Bay to provide privately funded scholarships for low-income children to attend a K-8 school of their choice. In three months, with little publicity, his program received 12,500 applications for 750 scholarships. His passion was born.
With Kirtley’s help, lawmakers in 2001 created the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The program gave corporations credit for redirecting their state tax obligations toward K-12 scholarships that helped low-income families send their children to participating private schools or to public schools outside their districts. Upon the program’s passage, Florida House Rep. Joe Negron, who sponsored the legislation, said, “This puts the parents in charge.”
Step Up For Students empowers families to pursue and engage in the most appropriate learning options for their children, with an emphasis on families who lack the information and financial resources to access these options. By pursuing this mission, we help public education fulfill the promise of equal opportunity.
Step Up For Students is a state-approved nonprofit scholarship funding organization that helps administer four scholarships for Florida schoolchildren: the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) for lower to middle income families, the Family Empowerment Scholarship(FES) for lower to middle income families and students with unique abilities (formerly Gardiner), the Hope Scholarship for public school students who are bullied or victims of violence and the Reading Scholarship Accounts for public school students in third through fifth grade who struggle with reading.
Public education is rooted in the promise of equal educational opportunity, and nowhere is that covenant more relevant than in the lives of struggling or disadvantaged children.
These scholarships strengthen public education by offering options to struggling schoolchildren. We consider Step Up For Students a partner of public schools in giving all students the tools toward success. We do this by empowering parents through the scholarship programs so that they might have an equal opportunity to discover educational options that work best for their children.