American Federation for Children Applauds Senator Rubio for Proposing Federal Tax Credit Scholarship Program

Feb 13, 2013, 12:07 ET from American Federation for Children

Florida Senator's bill will help thousands of low-income families access a quality education

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Federation for Children, the nation's voice for educational choice, today praised Florida Senator Marco Rubio for introducing federal legislation that will help thousands of children from low-income families access a quality education. 

The bill, a federal tax credit scholarship program, is modeled after similar programs currently operating in 11 states and serving nearly 150,000 children.  The bill is well designed, specifically written to help those most in need, and includes strong financial and academic accountability provisions.  Families with household incomes equaling 250 percent of poverty ($57,625 for a family of four) would be eligible; scholarships would be portable; participating Scholarship Granting Organizations would be subject to annual financial audits; and participating students would be annually assessed using a nationally recognized norm-referenced or state test used by the school, with results reported to the U.S. Department of Education.  

Currently, the highly successful Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) is the only federally funded scholarship program in the country.  According to the last federal study of the OSP, children who used their scholarships had a 91 percent graduation rate - 21 percent higher than those who sought, but did not receive a scholarship, and more than 30 percent higher than D.C. public schools.  Similar studies in Wisconsin and Florida have shown increases in student achievement and attainment.  Students participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program boast a graduation rate 7.2 points higher than students in Milwaukee Public Schools.  Students participating in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, who tended to be the lowest-performing students at low-performing public schools, achieved gains in reading and math on par with all students nationally, not just students from low-income families.

Senator Rubio has been a longtime advocate and champion for expanded parental options, dating to his time in the Florida legislature where he was a leader in advancing parental choice. The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, today, is model for the nation.  The program serves nearly 51,000 children from low-income families and enjoys strong bipartisan support.  According to a recent study released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Florida program is the most accountable tax credit scholarship program in the country. 

"We are grateful that Senator Rubio has introduced a bill to help children access a great education, regardless of their zip code," said former D.C. City Councilman and Federation Executive Counsel Kevin P. Chavous.  "At a time when our nation continues to have a tragically high dropout rate and millions of kids remain trapped in traditional schools that do not work for them, we must have the courage to put all options on the table – options we know work for disadvantaged kids.  Senator Rubio understands that every child matters and we applaud his leadership and commitment to helping these kids."

There are currently 32 publicly-funded private school programs operating in 16 states, plus Washington, DC.  More than 245,000 are enrolled for the 2012-2013 school year. 

SOURCE American Federation for Children