Super Bowl ad debuts to save Tax Credit Scholarship Program

Valentin Mendez scholarship ad

A renewed plea to continue Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program is the subject of new TV spot set to run in the Tallahassee during tomorrow’s Super Bowl XLIX.

The scholarships are under fire in a lawsuit filed by the Florida Teacher’s Union and School Boards Association. The legal challenge aims to end the 13-year old program, evicting nearly 70-thousand Florida students from their current schools.

The 60-second ad features Valentin Mendez, a Hispanic high school sophomore from South Florida. In the ad, he tells of being bullied in his early middle school years, feeling lost and failing classes.

“I tried different schools, but bad things kept happening,” Mendez says. “It was a nightmare that wouldn’t end. Then my mother learned about the Tax Credit Scholarships program.”

After receiving a scholarship, Valentin enrolled in La Progresiva, a school reopened in Miami in 1971 after Fidel Castro forced its closure in Cuba ten years earlier. The teen calls the school a “dream come true.”

Mendez is now making good grades and has aspirations of becoming a doctor or businessperson.

The ad also features the teen’s mother, Jeannthe Ruiz, speaking about the value of hard work as well as what a good education means to her son’s future.  Jeannthe works the night shift at a gas station, Valentin’s father is employed at a tire shop.

“These are hard-working families who want to do what’s best to ensure a promising future for their children,” said Julio Fuentes, CEO of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), which sponsors the ad. “It confounds me why anyone would want to eliminate this scholarship and dash the dreams of young students, from low-income families, who are finally getting the chance to succeed in the classroom and work their way toward a better life. Isn’t that what the American Dream is all about?”

Florida’s Legislature created Tax Credit Scholarship as a tax credit program to provide low-income parents opportunities to find schools that work best for their children. Of roughly 70,000 students who receive scholarships this year, more than 25,000 are Hispanic. The average household income for a Hispanic student on the scholarship is $23,040 or just 3.7 percent above the poverty level.

Unlike voucher programs, which receive direct funding from the state treasury, no direct state budget dollars go for Florida tax credit scholarships. Corporations receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits in return for contributions to the program fund the scholarships.

The Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options’ serves to empower and mobilize the Hispanic community to action; ensuring all children have access to high-quality educational options.

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Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a Tampa Bay-area journalist, editor and writer. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including His broad range includes covering news, local government, entertainment reviews, marketing and an advice column. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in Tampa with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached on Twitter @PhilAmmann or at [email protected]


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