JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Some private schools across our area are on the verge of shutting down due to state funding delays. Some parents are still waiting to receive their private school voucher money from the state.
Faith Christian Academy parent Ashlee McNair is a working mother who says she can’t afford to pay it on her own; vouchers are her only way in.
“I am frustrated, and I’m concerned,” McNair said.
Due to a recent change in state legislation, private school vouchers are available to many more Florida students.
Ashlee McNair saw an opportunity for her child. She enrolled her 7-year-old girl in private school for the first time this year. She said her daughter wasn’t getting the specialized attention she needed in public school.
“We came, we met with the director, immediately, my daughter fell in love,” McNair said. “This is where my daughter needs to be. And this is where she needs to stay.”
The Florida Department of Education they’ve had a record number of scholarship recipients this year. A spokesperson said in a statement, “With this tremendous growth, it remains important that the Department of Education, as well as Step Up For Students, conducts its due diligence and exercise the proper controls to ensure that taxpayer funds are expended both expeditiously and appropriately.”
Step Up for Students helps administer the scholarships through the state’s two main programs, the Florida Tax Credit scholarship and Family Empowerment Scholarship. A spokesperson said as of Sept. 15th, they’ve had nearly 253,000 students enroll in private schools using vouchers so far this year. That number was closer to 175,000 this time last year. So, that’s about a 45-percent increase.
Mcnair hasn’t received her funds yet.
And Faith Christian Academy director, Angela Schminke says the school is fully funded by these vouchers. They are a smaller school with less than 50 students offering a roughly 7 to 1 teacher to student ratio. She says this delay is forcing her to pull money from her own retirement fund.
“And we’re going to take those funds that we need to make sure our school stays viable, because without those funds, we will shut down.”
State representative Angie Nixon says she always knew this was going to be a problem.
“This is just going to cause the children to suffer,” Nixon said. “And it’s such a shame that we actually warned many leadership about this and opening up these vouchers to millionaires and billionaires.”
But some aren’t worried. Danny Aqua is the policy director of Teach Florida, which is an organization that represents about 90% of the Jewish Day School students in the state.
“I really believe that that all the any, any outlasting funding will be resolved really soon,” Aqua said.
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Schminke says they were supposed to receive all the funds by mid-September.