John Kirtley’s Step Up For Students Received $6.9 Million in Management Fees This Year


In this morning’s investigative piece in the Palm Beach Post, it was revealed that the voucher group that runs Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship receives a lot of money as a management fee.

Many of Florida’s Republican leaders came of political age under Bush. The charter, online and voucher industry also have become a steady source of major campaign dollars, mostly for Republican candidates, according to state records reviewed by The Palm Beach Post.

Charter Schools USA gave $215,450 during the last campaign, most of it going to the Florida Republican Party and the Florida Federation for Children, a political spending committee chaired by John Kirtley, who helped create the state’s program that gives corporations tax credits for money they contribute to education vouchers for low-income students to attend private schools, including religious ones.

Scott spoke in December at a dinner honoring the corporate tax-credit scholarship program, which now serves more than 50,000 students and receives $229 million from corporations that otherwise would have gone to state taxes.

Under legislation sponsored by Weatherford two years ago, before he was House speaker, the credit is set to grow to $286 million next year.

For directing the program, Kirtley’s organization, Step Up for Students, receives 3 percent for management fees this year, or almost $6.9 million.

Step Up for Students, which hasn’t posted an annual report of its website since 201o, has offices in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville. Its 2011 report doesn’t appear to include an internal audit. As Kirtley’s Florida Federation for Children spent $1.5 million in Florida campaigns last fall, it can be assumed that some of it’s management fees goes into political activities. Step Up for Student’s policy and public affairs director, Jon East, made the curious case late last year opposing making schools receiving vouchers through his organization to the same accountability standard as are Florida’s public schools.

Oversight of Step Up for Students voucher administration will be conflicted when Tony Bennett takes over as education commissioner later this month. Kirtley’s American Federation for Children donated to his Indiana campaign in 2011.

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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2 Responses to John Kirtley’s Step Up For Students Received $6.9 Million in Management Fees This Year

  1. Tom James says:

    Kirtley BOUGHT the voucher program with a $100,000 donation to Jebby and the RPOF back in 1999. You know the Republicans are getting kickbacks from these management fees. Seems Mr. Kirtley’s organization isn’t in compliance with IRS guidelines. Someone may wish to contact the IRS regarding Mr. Kirtley’s non compliance in filing?

  2. Here are some names I recognized as funding Bennett in 2011…Elisabeth De Vos, Zachariah Zachariah, Meridien Strategies if it is Levesque’s business, Kerri Briggs, Tom Luna, Gerard Robinson, Jon Padget, Kathleen Shanahan,, and Eric Smith.

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