How ‘help’ for craft brewers could hurt scholarship students

beer glasses
What's the real cost to Florida's kids?

Once again, legislation is moving in the Legislature as a “feel good” measure that will favor a few craft brewers looking for more opportunities to bring in revenue.

It seems, however, members have failed to consider the unintended consequences.

Florida’s beer distributors bring America’s favorite brands and emerging new craft beers to consumers. For many of the emerging craft brews, the distributors have the ability to exponentially increase consumer access to their product. The distributors market the brands, ensure a level of quality and promote safe consumption.

Here’s what you didn’t know about Florida’s distributors: They help expand educational opportunities for Florida students who have limited financial resources.

Florida’s beer distributors contributed $153 million last year to Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, accounting for more than 22% of the scholarships awarded through this program.

In an effort to choose Florida’s craft brewers as winners in the marketplace, lawmakers may designate the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program as a loser this session, robbing the program of nearly one-quarter of its funds.

“Not only do we open markets for long-time favorites and craft beers alike, but we advertise their products, guarantee quality and promote safe consumption,” said Justin Hollis, executive director of the Beer Industry of Florida.

“Furthermore, we’re investing in Florida’s next generation. Florida’s beer distributors contributed more $153 million last year to Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program, which provided more than 22,000 scholarships for students in Florida.”

In fact, contributions from Florida’s beer distributors last year to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program funded precisely 22,788 scholarships for Florida students. These scholarships, which range from $6,343 to $6,920 per student, enable kids to achieve greater academic excellence by providing for tuition at private schools.

Two-thirds of scholarship students are black or Hispanic. Their average annual family income is $25,755. A decade’s worth of standardized test scores shows they were typically the lowest-performing students in their prior public schools.

But now on scholarship in schools of their parents’ choosing, they are making solid progress. According to a study released in February by the Urban Institute, Florida Tax Credit Scholarship students are up to 43 percent more likely to attend four-year colleges than their peers in public schools, and up to 20 percent more likely to earn bachelor’s degrees. Students who use the scholarship four or more years are up to 45 percent more likely to earn bachelor’s degrees.

“The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship is giving lower-income parents the power to positively change the trajectory of their children’s lives, and it has helped put tens of thousands of students on the path to college and success beyond,” said Jillian Metz, vice president for development at Step Up For Students. “This would not happen at this scale without the incredibly generous and sustained contributions from Florida’s beer distributors.”

The program has also been highlighted by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and he is hoping to expand on its success with a new scholarship fund this year. It’s praised by advocates for school choice because it gives more economically disadvantaged families more options and opportunities to find the school that is the best fit for their children.

Take Ashley Elliot, one of countless scholarship students whose lives have changed for the better.

Ashley was born drug-addicted to a single mom, struggled in high school and says she was destined to become a dropout. But the scholarship allowed her to attend a private school in Lakeland – Victory Christian Academy – where she received the help she needed to focus, gain traction and blossom academically. Now she’s in college, studying to be a teacher.

The program already has a long waiting list as it is unable to meet the demand from students. More than 80,000 students have applied for scholarships to cover the upcoming school year.

But with legislation creating great uncertainty in the industry, it will certainly impact the distributors’ ability to support this critical program.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • Matt M

    April 3, 2019 at 10:10 am

    These points seem very poorly connected/non-existent. Is the article asserting that if free market principles are finally applied to support the very small business owners that make up the lead craft breweries that distributors will withhold funding from scholarship programs? There also seems to be a lack of awareness about how much craft breweries tend to do for charity, does it not stand to reason that they will continue to do even more if they do better financially?

    This article doesn’t actually connect any points it seems and just reads like poorly written propaganda and alarmist writings. Honestly it just seems lazy and a disservice the worthwhile charity that Distributors are in fact helping. This bill also isn’t even anti-distributor it just gives breweries some sense of negotiating power instead of being locked into life-long contracts with no outs. Disappointed to read this from someone I expected more from.

  • Bob Sylvester

    April 3, 2019 at 10:48 am

    This is a pretty desperate attempt by the Florida Beer Wholesalers to curtail their monopoly on distribution. The Florida Craft Beer market has only been around…and distributed, since 2006.
    The distributors in question somehow survived, thrived and gave to charitable institutions for decades prior to 2006. What are they really afraid of?

  • Roger Beck

    April 3, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Total, complete bullshit. Craft breweries hold numerous charity events that benefit local, state and national causes. To use children is a rouse to sway to low information reader/voter. Let the free market decide what’s best. Distributors have held their clients hostage for far too long.

  • Michael Bryant

    April 3, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Glad to see you have your hand in the dirty pockets of big beer distribution… This article is full of empty lies to tug at the heart strings of people who aren’t close to the situation.

    Good luck being taken serious moving forward. You just shit on small business people across the state of Florida.

  • Kevin Lowe

    April 3, 2019 at 11:50 am

    I don’t believe that a small percentage of distributors sales will force an all or nothing approach as this article suggests. As donations that are ultimately a tax write off that distributors enjoy. Maybe this is an attempt to get some traffic on a stale site.

  • Joey Redner

    April 3, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    You should have posted this on April 1st b/c this is a joke of an article.

  • Gabe Grass

    April 3, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    This poorly written article asserts that if legislation that benefits small businesses (that already support numerous charities related to the education system) would substantially impact beer distributors’ willingness or capacity to continue donating to similar charities. If this legislation passes and distributors don’t support education the way they have been, there is only one group toward which the finger of blame should be pointed.

    TL;DR – Give me a break

  • Michael Cotherman

    April 5, 2019 at 12:17 am

    wow… just wow… did Mitch Rubin pay you to write this crap? You do realize that people see right through you ploy to use education, race, and lies about the ‘tax credit scholarship’ program to make small, independently owned businesses look like the bad guy?

Comments are closed.


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