This week is National School Choice Week. The focus of this nation-wide celebration is to call attention to the many benefits of parents choosing the school that their children will attend. There is great power in parents being able to select a school that is aligned with the priorities of their home. Over 700 families make LCS their choice
The most obvious barrier to all parents being able to choose a school other than their local public school is the financial ability to pay tuition. A great deal of the focus of National School Choice Week is geared to increase awareness and support for school choice/scholarship/voucher programs in various states. These programs provide funding for lower and some middle-income families that can be applied toward independent school tuition.
Step Up for Students- How it works
In Florida, Step Up for Students (SUFS) is the most widely accessed program that provides financial assistance to families who qualify. Funds are awarded on a sliding scale ranging from $2943 to $5886 based on family income. Approximately 100 LCS students benefit from SUFS.
SUFS is a corporate tax scholarship program. Florida corporations receive tax credits for funds contributed to the SUFS foundation which are used to fund the SUFS awards to families who qualify. There is a common misconception that SUFS funds are taken away from public school funding. While corporate tax credits do reduce overall state revenue, there is no guarantee that had the funds contributed to SUFS been paid in taxes, that money would have been designated for public schools.
Latest court ruling
Last week the Florida Supreme Court rejected the suit brought by the Florida Education Association and other groups that challenged SUFS on the grounds that funds were used to enroll students in religious schools and that it violated the state constitutional mandate to provide a “uniform system of schools.” The 4-1 decision leaves in place an August ruling by the First District Court of Appeal which found that the statewide teachers union and other groups behind the suit did not have standing to bring the case. We can expect further legal challenges in the future, but the 98,000 students in Florida who benefit from SUFS are grateful for this latest victory.
How SUFS helps all LCS students
Great teachers are the most critical factor in determining how much students learn in school. Another strong contributing element to student growth is the composition of the other students in the class. A wider range of income among school families is important for the growth and maturing of all students.
The LCS financial aid program is wholly based on financial need. There are no scholarships awarded for any area of student performance, including athletics. Our financial aid program utilizes SUFS funding as our first line of assistance for families who qualify. Some families qualify for additional aid as determined by F.A.C.T.S., our third party financial aid needs assessment service. I am one of only four staff members who have access to the financial aid award data. I have often looked down the list to see students who make a major contribution in the classroom, the fine arts, the academic teams, student council and other leadership roles. Since two-thirds of our secondary students are on at least one athletic team, SUFS students can be found there as well.
The reality is that SUFS and the other elements of the LCS financial aid program provide for a more diverse and more talented student body than would otherwise be possible. This enriches the educational experience for all families whether or not they receive a financial aid award.
Know someone that should check out SUFS?
The LCS business office can provide information on SUFS and answer questions as to qualifications and the application process. Perhaps you know a family who believes that an LCS education is beyond their financial reach. Encourage them to contact us and find out what Step Up for Students may be able to offer. There is a limited amount of funds available, so early application is important.
LCS leadership works diligently to provide high-quality Christian schooling that is accessible to as many families as possible. We are grateful for the role of Step Up for Students in helping to make Christian schooling a viable choice for many families and for making the school experience richer for all LCS families.