Florida adds another school choice program, Minnesota fails to pass tax-credit scholarships

As I write this, I am lounging on a beach chair in Palm Coast, Florida enjoying 87-degree weather that feels cooler thanks to a breeze coming off the Atlantic Ocean. The school year here has ended, and the local newspaper headlines have been focused on the state’s expansion of school choice through its fifth voucher program.

The new Family Empowerment Scholarships program is expected to serve as many as 18,000 students during the upcoming school year and is open to students from lower-to-middle-income households.

Florida has other educational choice programs in place that have had great success, including the state’s Tax Credit scholarship program that annually gives private school scholarships to more than 100,000 low-income students and helps boost their college prospects.

Because there is a waiting list for the Florida Tax Credit scholarships, the Family Empowerment program is expected to provide relief for families looking to send their children to private schools.

Minnesota had the opportunity this most recent legislative session to help more of its students access quality school options through a tax credit scholarship program, but the Legislature failed to approve the Equity and Opportunity Scholarship Act.

This is a shame, as the scholarships would have provided low-income students access to a learning environment that best serves their needs, including religious and private school options. The tax-credit scholarships would have been funded through private contributions made to non-profit scholarship granting organizations with 501(c)(3) status that have been approved by the Minnesota Department of Revenue. Tax credits are merely a reduction of tax liability and allow taxpayers to keep more of their own money. Because the money is a donation, the state does not own or even ever physically possess it.

It’s unfortunate Minnesota continues to lag behind numerous states in its expansion of school choice through tax credits (nearly 20 states have tax-credit scholarship programs already in effect). The Center will keep pushing for the adoption of new education strategies to help tackle the state’s education shortcomings and better serve our students most in need of new opportunities.