Florida’s Voucher Expansion Assures the Expansion and Enrichment of the Step Up for Students Brand

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Florida Public Employees

Scathing_Purple_Musings_Vouchers

March 16, 2014

By  – Scathing Purple Musings

It’s now called the Florida Sales Tax Credit Program, a teeny-weeny little change in what was simply the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. Sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bardenton),  SB 1620 is summarized this way:

Tax Credit Scholarship Programs; Creating a credit against the sales and use tax for contributions to an eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization; revising the disqualifying offenses for scholarship-funding organization owners and operators; establishing the Florida Sales Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTCS); providing parent, student, scholarship-funding organization, Department of Education, school district, and Commissioner of Education responsibilities, obligations, and powers with respect to the scholarship program, etc.

Emphasis mine.

Republicans and folks from the Chamber of Commerce and Bush Foundations bristle when FTCS is referred to as a voucher program. Too bad. It’s what is. The expansion to include what was once funded by simple tax liability to include sales tax ought to be giving pause to legislators on both sides of aisle. So far, not at all from the GOP side. But that discussion is for another time. This post will shine the light on “Scholarship Funding Organizations” or SFOs of which who receive the direct “tax credits or sales tax”  from individuals, businesses and  corporations.

Up until this past year, the only SFO operating in the state was John Kirtley’s  Step Up for Students (SUFS) and it served as the sole administrator of the Florida School Choice Fund.According to its latest audit, SUFS took in over $271 million in “pledges receivable” in 2013, an increase of almost $80 million from the year before. SUFS is allowed a 3 percent operating allowance by law any by any measurement is operating within that. But lets take a closer look.

Among other expenses, the audit lists the following “Salaries and Wages,” totaling $4,389,223 in the following categories:

Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program: $2,106,819

School Development of Learning: $259,186

Communication, Policy and Public Affairs: $633,582

General & Administrative Support Services: $619,090

Development & Fundraising Support Services: $638,170

According to SUFS own audit, only 47 percent of the salaries it pays out goes to support the tax credit scholarship fund.  Of the other 53 percent, the Communication, Policy and Public Affairs division is described as follows in the audit:

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