News Release: Florida House
Tallahassee, Fla.—The Florida House of Representatives Finance and Tax Subcommittee today passed Proposed Committee Bill FTSC 14-02 to expand the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program to provide additional educational opportunities to Florida’s low-income families.
“Under Speaker Weatherford’s leadership, the House has made it a priority this year to expand education choices for Florida families. This scholarship program has already helped over 60,000 students attend the schools of their choice and receive the best education available, regardless of their zip codes,” said State Representative Ritch Workman (R-Melbourne), Chair of the House Finance and Tax Subcommittee. “With this bill, we can expand this successful scholarship program to even more children to help them reach their full potential.”
“Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program is a model for the nation, helping thousands of families living in areas with struggling schools find a better education for their children,” said State Representative Manny Diaz, Jr. (R-Hialeah), sponsor of the bill. “This legislation empowers even more parents with the choice of a future filled with promise.”
The bill makes numerous changes to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program’s student eligibility criteria, scholarship amounts, tax credit availability, and scholarship funding organizations (SFO) accountability standards. Beginning in fiscal year 2014-15, the bill removes the prior public school attendance requirement for students whose household income is below 185 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). Beginning in fiscal year 2016-17, the maximum household income for eligibility is increased to 260 percent of the FPL, as long as the student is entering kindergarten or first grade or attended public school in the prior year. The bill also allows students in foster care to remain eligible for the program regardless of household income until the age of 21 or graduation and requires SFOs to give priority to new applicants whose household income is below 185 percent of the FPL and to students in foster care. The bill increases the maximum scholarship limit to 84 percent of the unweighted FEFP funding amount, and in concert with the 2016-17 fiscal year increase in maximum house income for eligibility, creates a new tiered phasedown of the maximum, per student scholarship amount. The bill also increases accountability for SFOs by strengthening the application, approval, and renewal processes to participate in the programs by requiring additional financial, organizational, and operational documentation in the application.
PCB FTSC 14-02 also creates a new Florida Sales Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which allows taxpayers to receive tax credits against their sales and use tax liability under chapter 212, F.S., for making donations to SFOs participating in the new program. The Sales Tax Credit Scholarship Program will operate in parallel to the current Tax Credit Scholarship Program and mirror its existing administrative procedures. The bill also establishes a unified tax credit cap for both programs. The Department of Revenue (DOR) may approve tax credits under either program until the sum under both programs combined reaches specified limits. For fiscal year 2014-15, the cap is set at $390 million and increases in subsequent years if the amount of approved credits reaches 90 percent of the combined cap.
In January, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz announced Work Plan 2014, which included the priority of expanding education choices for low-income families as part of the “Economic Opportunity through Education” initiative. To read more about Work Plan 2014, please visit the Florida House of Representatives online.