Step Up for Students
Step Up For Students was created to help alleviate the enormous educational challenges faced by children in Florida who live in or near poverty.
The program provides Tax Credit Scholarships to students in K-12 who come from low-income families. These scholarships allow the students to consider a participating private school or an out-of-district public school that may better suit their individual needs, an option which already is available to families of greater financial means.
This choice is not based on whether the public school is judged as succeeding or failing. Rather, it recognizes that different children learn in different ways and that our collective struggle is to help the students who often are at the greatest disadvantage in modern education.
The statistics in Florida tell a painful story, where only 37 percent of African-American males graduate from high school and only 53 percent of economically disadvantaged children read at grade level. The mission of Step Up For Students is to be a partner in the larger solution.
These scholarships allow students, who meet the academic and behavioral standards of admission to Premier Academy, to gain the advantage of a Premier Academy education that may better suit their academic potential and educational needs. This choice recognizes the importance of helping capable students who often have an economic disadvantage in obtaining a private school education.
How the Scholarship Works
Students learn in different ways and parents need to find the best school for each child. Sometimes that means another public school in a different neighborhood or sometimes that means a private school. Step Up For Students exists to help low-income families enjoy all of those options.
Students who qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program may qualify for a Step Up For Students Scholarship to a private school or for funds to help cover transportation costs to an out-of-district public school.
Private school scholarship: Pays up to $5,886 for the 2016-2017 school year toward the following school expenses, in this order until the maximum is reached:
** Applicable for books and uniforms sold by the school, not a third party vendor or $500 to help cover transportation costs to attend a public school in another district, typically another county.
These scholarships were created by the Florida Legislature in 2001 to assure that low-income children have learning options. Under the law, the scholarships are based on financial need, not how well your child does in school. They are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and can be transferred to other eligible schools if the student moves within the state, or simply wants to attend a different Step Up partner school.
Click here to view the eligibility guidelines and complete the online applications at the Step Up For Students website.
John McKay Scholarship
The McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program permits Florida students with special needs the opportunity to attend a participating private school.
A parent of a special needs student, who meets the academic and behavioral standards of admission to Premier Academy and is dissatisfied with the student’s current school may, once accepted for enrollment, choose to transfer the student to Premier Academy.
In order to be eligible for the McKay Scholarship Program, a student must apply for the program prior to withdrawing from public school. The student must also have an Individual Education Plan (IEP)* or 504 Accommodation Plan, and:
- Have been enrolled and reported for funding in a Florida public school during the preceding October and February Florida Education Finance Program surveys (Grades K-12); or
- Have been a pre-kindergarten student who was enrolled and reported for funding in a Florida public school during the preceding October and February Florida Education Finance Program surveys and was at least 4 years old; or
- Have attended the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind during the preceding October and February student membership surveys (Grades K-12).
If your child meets the eligibility requirements, you may apply for a scholarship by completing the McKay Student Intent application on the Florida Department of Education’s website or providing the necessary information here.
If your child does not meet these requirements but has an IEP or 504 Accommodation Plan and is a dependent child of a member of the United States Armed Forces who transfers to a school in Florida from out of state or from a foreign country pursuant to a parent’s permanent change of station orders, the child may be eligible for a McKay Scholarship. Please contact the Florida Department of Education at 1-800-447-1636 for additional information.
* Please note that students with a “gifted only” designation and an Eligibility Plan (EP) do not meet the eligibility criteria for the McKay Scholarship Program.
The AAA Scholarship Foundation awards scholarships only to qualifying low-income and disadvantaged students (disabled and/or foster children) thus empowering parents to choose the best learning environment for their child. Eligibility is determined through a stringent application process using best-practices benchmark practices.
Step 1) Apply with us.
In order to prove their eligibility, households must complete AAA’s application and provide supporting documentation by the stated deadline. The households must meet both the state and AAA’s requirements (click here for current Florida income chart). Each household member is required to provide proof of income. AAA does not rely on a household’s enrollment in a state food assistance or TANF program as proof of eligibility, a process sometimes referred to as “direct certification,” since those programs audit less than 3 percent of their recipient households.
In Florida, Georgia and Nevada, the household must reapply annually by the stated deadline. In Arizona scholarships may be automatically renewed for multiple years without reapplying.
Step 2) We notify you of your eligibility determination.
Processing of applications is typically completed within ten to twleve weeks once ALL required documentation has been received. Parents can check the status of their application by clicking on the “Check the Status of your Application” link. Once applications are in the “Completed” status, a determination letter will be mailed to the address on file within four to six weeks.
Households that are determined eligible AND have received funding for the upcoming school year will receive 1) a Scholarship Award Letter and 2) a School Commitment Form (SCF) in the mail directly from AAA. Those that are determined ineligible will receive a denial letter in the mail directly from AAA.
Please DO NOT enroll your student into a private school until you have actually received an AAA Scholarship Award Letter and SCF. Funding is not guaranteed. If you enroll your student before receipt of an SCF, you will be responsible for their tuition and fees and you may not qualify for future scholarship funding.
Step 3) If eligible, you tell us that you accept the scholarship.
The use of a scholarship cannot be postponed. The household must find an eligible private school for their student(s) as soon as they receive a scholarship award letter and SCF. Failure to meet the deadline stated on the SCF will result in the forfeiture of the awarded scholarship. Families should make a copy of the blank SCF before taking it to an eligible private school in case they decide to transfer to a different eligible private school later in the year. By completing the school enrollment form, both the parents and the schools agree to abide by the terms of the AAA Parent/School Handbooks.
Schools should not accept any students without an SCF unless the household: 1) is willing to self-pay their tuition and fees until they are awarded a scholarship and 2) will self-pay if they are not. If a household receives a SCF in error or their eligibility is revoked, the private school that has enrolled the student will be notified as soon as possible. By accepting the scholarship student(s) and scholarship payment(s) the private school agrees to repay any incorrectly made or overpayment of funds on behalf of the student(s), regardless of the reason. Households that document eligibility but are placed on a waitlist do not have a scholarship unless they receive a Scholarship Award Letter and SCF at a later date.
Step 4) Scholarship payments are disbursed during the year.
Four times during the school year, AAA sends the school a verification form to ascertain whether the student remains enrolled and is current on any funds personally owed to the school. If the verification report is returned to us by the deadline, AAA then disburses one quarter of the scholarship award in the form of a check, made payable to the parent/guardian but for deposit only by the school. The parent/guardian must restrictively endorse the check over to the school before it can be deposited.