Florida Voucher Nonprofit, Step Up for Students: A Tale of 15 Tax Forms
Step Up for Students (Step Up) is the Florida nonprofit founded by venture capitalist John Kirtley (see his bio here). Until 2011, Step Up was known as the Florida School Choice Fund (FSCF), which officially became a nonprofit in July 2000.
In recent news, the former Florida voucher student whom Donald Trump featured in his February 28, 2017, Congressional address, Denisha Merriweather, was both former Step Up student and employee.
Step Up oversees Florida’s round-about private school voucher program known as a “tax credit” program. Through tax credits, both corporations and wealthy individuals are able to donate money directly to a “scholarship fund” in exchange for tax credits. The state ends up with less revenue than it would if it did not offer such credit, but allowing private entities to put the cash directly into the fund and receive a tax break afterward is a clever means of keeping the label “public” off of the money that is donated even as the amount of public funds in the public coffers is lowered in the name of “tax credit.”
The Step Up for Students website calls such a practice “redirecting tax obligations”:
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. …With Kirtley’s help, [Florida] 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.
Note that the FSCF/ Step Up max amount to send students to public schools out of district is $500 for transportation. The primary purpose of the tax credit is to send students to private schools, as the same web page proudly highlights:
Today, Step Up serves more than 97,926 FTC [Florida Tax Credit] students in more than 1,712 private schools throughout Florida.
There is no such web site highlight regarding the number of students who attend out-of-district public schools.
Step Up for Students also doesn’t mention the wealthy individuals who are able to Florida Voucher Nonprofit, Step Up for Students: A Tale of 15 Tax Forms | deutsch29:
Astroturf lobbying refers to political organizations or campaigns that appear to be made up of grassroots activists but are actually organized and run by corporate interests seeking to further their own agendas. Such groups are often typified by innocent-sounding names that have been chosen specifically to disguise the group's true backers