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All About Florida Tax Credit Scholarships (PEP ESA)

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

PEP FUNDS FAQ for the 2023 Personalized Education Program (PEP)

Download a copy of the language of the bill that will be enacted July 1, 2023 - HERE. So what is PEP?

We all have questions. First, take a moment and watch this video from HEF who has provided us with these updates. It may help answer some of your questions.

Download their quick reference file about the school choice laws here.

PEP Purchasing Guide (FTC FES-EO)

What purchases the PEP scholarship will cover? Step Up for Students has a helpful guide which breaks that down for you. Download it here.


How to Apply:







Need Help?

Go to https://www.stepupforstudents.org/get-support to ask questions and submit recommendations. Many families are asking the process of submitting their expenses and "approved" vendors. This process of getting all of the Information out and the lists full of "approved" suppliers, etc. is going to take time and patience. Please use that link and help inform the process.


Awarded the PEP?

If you received an email in August 2023 from Step Up confirming you have been awarded PEP... HEF shared the following into, "Step Up has advised that if you received the email that went out the first week of August 2023 confirming you have been awarded PEP for your students--and your scholarship program now shows "FTCPEP" for your student in Step Up's system---then you have been awarded PEP and you will be funded through FTC once everything processes. If you received this confirmation of being awarded PEP and still want to accept the scholarship, you should submit your letter of termination to the county as soon as possible. (You will find the FTCPEP confirmation by logging into EMA, then "My Students" on your Dashboard, then clicking "View" next to each individual student. Be sure to confirm "FTCPEP" is listed for each student you applied for! See screenshot below for what it should look like.) "

They go on to share, "If you're seeing that FTCPEP listed there, then you should go ahead and submit your letter of termination to the county. Step Up and DOE will be working with the districts to ensure PEP students aren't registered as Home Ed, so you'll want to go ahead and terminate to avoid any issues there.(You can write in "We have been awarded the PEP scholarship" or "We are switching to PEP" or some other PEP-related explanation as your reason for termination when you submit the form. If you want to, feel free to also write in that you may switch back to home education in the future if PEP becomes unfavorable.)"


Keep reading for Q&As answered from the forum

What tests are there to choose from and how are they administered?

The tests are "to be determined" in the future, but right now the acceptable norm-referenced assessments that are most commonly used are California Achievement Test, Stanford Achievement Test or Iowa Test of Basic Skills. These can be administered by your evaluator/teacher. Local support groups can also administer them. A list of Florida Department of Education's Norm-Referenced Assessments can be Found here. Use of the Funds: can they be used for suppliesclasses online or in person? Florida Statute 1002.394 (2)(b) lays that out: "'Curriculum' means a complete course of study for a particular content area or grade level, including any required supplemental materials and associated online instruction."

Here's a helpful "quick-list" of fund usage:
  • Can be used for curriculum & instructional materials, including digital & internet resources.

  • Tuition or fees for full or part time enrollment in an eligible private school or classes at a home education instructional program

  • Tuition or fees at an eligible (private) postsecondary institution, approved preapprenticeship program, FLVS or public-school classes.

  • Fees for private tutor or a private tutoring program under s.1002.43

  • Fees for nationally norm-referenced achievement tests, AP tests, industry certifications, assessments related to postsecondary education and other assessments

  • Fees for a choice navigator to assist in developing a student learning plan, choosing curriculum and advising on career and postsecondary options.

Can the funds be "backdated"?

A mother asked, "For instance, I have already purchased most of the curriculum for the upcoming school year. If I sign up for this PEP funding, will I get reimbursed for the curriculum that I have already purchased?" To our knowledge, only purchases made after July 1, 2023 will be eligible for reimbursement. The bill does not become law until this date, so any purchases made before the enactment date are made outside of the scope of this bill. As of August 9, 2023 the reimbursement procedure has not been released by Step Up. Step Up encourages for recipients to continue monitoring their email for the process that will be released soon.


How do I get pre-authorization for a purchase? How do I know whether the class/course program I want is on the approved provider list?


First, a clarification between pre-approval and pre-authorization forms: Step Up uses the term "pre-approval form" as the form that qualified tutors, Choice Navigators, home education instructional programs, etc., must submit in order to be considered for addition to their official "Pre-Approved Providers" list. As of August 9, 2023 "pre-approved providers" have not been chosen. They plan to start the process in the next week per Step Up. They use the term "pre-authorization" in regard to specific purchases a parent wishes to submit ahead of time for confirmation that the expense will be reimbursable (to avoid the risk of paying out of pocket for something that might not be reimbursed). Pre-authorization is recommended for anything you are unsure whether Step Up will cover as an authorized purchase for PEP. If you want to know whether the home education instructional program you want to use will be on the approved provider list for PEP: A list of pre-approved home education instructional programs has not yet been released. However, if you are a home education instructional program and want to be added to their approved list, they do have a form for that on their site. (Surf Skate Science has completed this process and is waiting) If you want to know whether your desired Choice Navigator (if you choose to use one) will be on the pre-approved list, or if you meet the qualifications to be a Choice Navigator and would like to have yourself added to the pre-approved list: They have not yet released a specific form for Choice Navigators to complete, but they do have a general "Provider Interest Form" for any providers not yet approved but who want to be added to their system: https://www.stepupforstudents.org/?ff_landing=10 Be sure you meet the qualifications in statute to be a Choice Navigator, first. You can find the wording of that in HB1 and also in the Purchasing Guide, both available on our Helpful Docs page here on the site. There's also an FAQ about Choice Navigators here in the forum that has more info: https://www.flhef.org/forum/pep-faq/what-is-a-choice-navigator-do-i-have-to-use-one-how-do-they-work-do-i-have-to-meet-in-person-how-does-someone-become-a-choice-navigator. (Note: They have said they WILL have a list of pre-approved Choice Navigators available to parents, eventually.) If you are a parent wanting to get pre-authorization from Step Up for a specific purchase (to make sure that purchase will qualify for reimbursement): For other Step Up scholarships, it seems that the pre-authorization request link is submitted through their login portal (EMA). Right now, that link is not showing up in EMA for PEP families, to our knowledge. This means there may not yet be a way to officially submit pre-authorization requests for PEP; we may need to wait until funds release. But this is only conjecture based on what we see from the other Step Up scholarships. We are going to reach out to Step Up to get clarification on this, and we will update here as soon as we have more info. (For AAA, you should contact them to ask how their process on that works.)


Why can't I use PEP funds to buy a computer?

Simple answer: Because it's not authorized in Statute. (See line 1231 in the HB1 Enacted document, available under Helpful Docs. Technology is not listed.) You can also refer to the FTC FES-EO Purchase Guide 2023-24 (also on the Helpful Doc page). This guide was recently released by Step Up for Students, and provides detailed explanations of what qualifies for purchase/reimbursement with PEP funds. That guide is currently the most up-to-date resource on how PEP funds can be used. Note: That guide is not yet finalized. They will be finalizing things in December. In the meantime, parents can provide feedback via the Purchasing Guide Feedback Form on the PEP page of Step Up's website. Step Up and AAA do have to abide by what's authorized in statute, but the specifics of what they list within those categories, the spending caps, etc, have not yet been finalized. If you have a concern or would like to see something changed, please reach out to them and share that feedback with them! On this particular issue, since technology was not included in the legislation, Brenda recommends that parents also reach out to their legislators and tell them you'd like to see computers/laptops added to the statutes as an approved use of funds.


Do I need to submit a final evaluation when I submit my letter of termination, even if I've already submitted my annual evaluation?

No. You are only required to submit one annual evaluation per year. If you've already submitted your annual evaluation this year, no further evaluation is needed. However, if you have not yet submitted your annual evaluation, you will need to submit that before you terminate your home education program with the county.


Will PEP impact my child's verifications/eligibility for athletics (FHSAA), Bright Futures, FLVS, dual-enrollment, etc.?


( We will update this FAQ answer as more information becomes available on this topic.) UPDATE AS OF FIRST WEEK OF AUGUST, 2023 -- FHSAA has now updated the language in their eligibility, etc., to include PEP students...but only for certain types of programs. Some of these issues are still being figured out, but you can find more info about what's currently eligible on their website here: https://fhsaa.com/sports/2020/3/11/Nontraditional_Students.aspx. ANSWER: Right now...Bright Futures and FLVS may still possibly be impacted. A lot of those details have not yet been worked out. There is one little phrase in HB1 with a number of the statutes, saying PEP students should have the same opportunities and benefits as in statute 1002.41 (3-12). That's the homeschool law. PEP law says that everything home educating students have in those statues, PEP students should have as well (extracurricular activities, dual enrollment, etc.). But right now, Bright Futures is in limbo, to some extent. And districts also aren't sure how to qualify PEP students for FLVS in their systems. There are also still some issues with FHSAA eligibilty for certain types of athletics programs typically used by home education families. Hopefully these things will get sorted out, but right now, there's a lot still being figured out. In statute, the PEP students are supposed to have the same privileges as home education students, as mentioned above. The problem is that the other laws that would direct the department to make those changes, were not changed. Bright Futures and FLVS have to follow the law, but they have been given no direction as to how to address the new PEP students in their systems. Also, the SFOs (scholarship funding organizations like Step Up and AAA) don't have access to the same database that school districts use, where they report volunteer hours for Bright Futures, etc. So they need to figure out ways to get the permissions and to access that information. The PEP program was rolled out so fast that not everything that needed to be dealt with was dealt with. There are some complications involved. This might mean some deadlines for Fall sports, etc., may pass before some of these issues are figured out.

Bottom line: If you have a child dependent on Bright Futures or FLVS, or an athletics program not directly mentioned in FHSAA's PEP information linked above, Brenda's personal recommendation is that you retain your students' home education status for this year. By this time next year, hopefully all the bugs will be worked out. If we receive information that changes this recommendation, we will update here as we've done previously!


Can PEP funds be used at an umbrella school?

PEP requires that it be an "eligible private school" -- one that has applied to the Department of Education to be a scholarship school under statute 1002.421 ("State School Choice Scholarship Program Accountability and Oversight"). There are a lot of hoops to jump through to be considered an "eligible private school" for PEP. So in general, the answer is no--most umbrella schools will not be "eligible" to be covered by PEP funds, because most will not have gone through the steps to meet all those requirements.


Is PEP money coming from the government?

Short answer: no. It is coming as a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. Corporations in the state of Florida are required to pay taxes, and for the FTC program, they've diverted that money, donating that same amount of tax dollars to SFOs (scholarship funding organizations) instead. So technically, it's not government money--it's diverted money that never went to the government, and was diverted to the scholarship funding organizations instead, for those corporate organizations who wanted to do that. It is not taking any money from a public school budget, or private school benefit, or anything else--it's a completely separate pool of money.


Can leftover money from PEP funds be rolled over into a 529 College Savings account?


(To hear Brenda's full answer given in one of our earliest Livestreams, go to timestamp 26:30 in on the July 10, 2023 Livestream video.) ANSWER: Brenda isn't 100% sure, yet. She believes the answer might be yes (because that's how FES-UA works), but since PEP is an FTC (Florida Tax Credit) scholarship and not an FES (Family Empowerment Scholarship), she isn't totally sure. Some of these things are still being figured out. The next legislative session is January/February, so it's likely that clarification on many things will be added at that point.


BIG THANKS to HEF for keeping everyone updated and Brenda Dickinson for the years of fighting for our families. HEF is supported solely by the contributions of Florida home educators. We must maintain a full-time lobbyist in Tallahassee to protect your rights. Please support HEF in their work by giving here.

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