How the Step Up Scholarship in Florida Makes Private Education Accessible to Everyone

In the past, a private school education was out of reach for many because of the financial aspect. This put many parents of kids who were being bullied, or parents of those with a learning disability or special medical needs at the whim of the public school system with few options. Thankfully, the Step Up for Students scholarship was created in Florida to give greater school choice to those in special circumstances, creating more accessibility to a private education for all who need it. 

In this brief article, our team at Lakeside Christian School, one of the Step Up for Students participating schools in Clearwater, FL, has more information on the Step Up for Schools collection of scholarships to help you make the best choice for your child, regardless of tuition price.


What Is Step Up for Students?

According to their website, “Step Up For Students empowers families to pursue and engage in the most appropriate learning options for their children, with an emphasis on families who lack the information and financial resources to access these options.” 

Step Up for Students was dreamed up by founder John Kirtley, who began the Children’s Scholarship Fund of Tampa Bay. After legislation supported the ability of parents to use these scholarships to place their children in better schools and once combined with the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program enacted in 1988, the Step Up Scholarship was created. 

The overall goal of the Step Up for Students scholarship is to allow parents the opportunity to take their children to participating private schools if they felt they were not being served well in their local public and/or charter schools. The Step Up for Students scholarship program targets students who tend to have the most limited options for improving the quality of their education.

Originally, the scholarship fund housed two smaller scholarships, but in recent years it has been expanded into four separate funds. These include: 

  • The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) for lower to middle income families
  • The Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) for lower to middle income families and students with unique abilities (formerly called the Gardiner scholarship) 
  • The Hope Scholarship for public school students who are bullied or victims of violence
  • The Reading Scholarship Accounts for public school students in third through fifth grade who struggle with reading

This is an incredible organization that gives to those who need it most. Step-Up For Students writes, “A state-commissioned researcher has determined that scholarship students “tend to be among the lowest-performing students in their prior school, regardless of the performance level of their public school.” 

Ultimately, these scholarship funds make private schools in Clearwater, FL more accessible to any income level, reading level, or level of ability – all of which are welcomed by Lakeside Christian School.


What Are the Requirements for the Step Up Scholarship?

Although the Step Up for Students scholarships are housed under the same umbrella, each scholarship within Step Up has differing requirements. 

A few of the requirements for this collection of scholarships include: 

The Income-Based Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship: A child may be eligible for an FTC scholarship for any of the following reasons:

  • A member of the household receives food stamps or federal assistance  
  • The household income qualifies the student for a free or reduced-price lunch
  • The household income is at or below the amounts indicated in the Step Up For Students eligibility chart
  • The child is homeless, in foster care, or in out-of-home care

Gardiner Scholarship: This scholarship is for children with special needs and unique abilities. Students between the ages of 3 and 22 who have yet to complete the 12th grade may qualify for the Gardiner scholarship. Your child may qualify for the Gardiner scholarship if they have:  

  • A qualifying disability or impairment  
  • A rare disease  
  • Developmental delays

Your child may also qualify if they are in a hospital or homebound.


How Does Step Up for Students Help Create Successful Outcomes?

The Step Up for Students scholarship fund is important because it gives access to children who might be facing more hurdles than others in public schools. Although public schools may individually have excellent test scores, or may have a positive curriculum, ultimately your child may not be able to receive the individual attention they need. 

Think of a child who struggles in reading. A public school may not be able to slow down the curriculum in place to help one struggling child, and if you find that your child also does not respond well to a private tutor, what can you do? You can switch to a school with smaller class sizes and more focused, data-driven learning methods that give your child the attention they need to succeed. 

You can also consider the positive impact on children with special needs. The need may not seem big to a public school – for example, if your child suffers life-threatening anaphylaxis due to food allergies – but in a private school setting there are more eyes on the child more consistently, creating a safer environment. This can decrease stress not only for the student, but for their caregivers as well. 

In the ever-inflating market, schools that encourage Step Up for Students in Clearwater, FL can keep your child in the right school no matter what is happening in public schools or the economy.


Contact the Best Clearwater Private School

Lakeside Christian School wants to help create a positive foundation for the rest of your child’s life for all students, and welcomes recipients of the Step Up for Students Scholarship. With over 40 years of experience and a diverse student body, Lakeside Christian School is built on the biblical principles of loving God and loving others. This care is demonstrated through the warm, respectful relationships among staff and between staff and students, and uses a tailored approach to your child’s education. If you’re interested in learning more about how we challenge all of our students to achieve their academic and personal goals, give us a call. 


If you would like to learn more about Lakeside Christian School, the best Clearwater private school, please give us a call at (727) 239-7808 or schedule a tour of our campus.