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:

  1. Tuition
  2. Books**
  3. Registration
  4. Transportation
  5. Uniforms**
  6. Testing
  7. Other

** 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.

Eligibility Requirements

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.