Parents can begin applying today for a first-of-its-kind state scholarship program designed to help thousands of public school students who struggle with reading.

The Reading Scholarship is an education savings account available to public school students in third, fourth or fifth grade who scored a Level 1 or Level 2 in 2018 on the English Language Arts portion of the third- or fourth-grade Florida Standards Assessment.

The scholarship is worth $500. It can be used to reimburse parents for tuition and fees for part-time tutoring; fees for summer and after-school education programs designed to improve reading or literacy skills; and instructional materials or curriculum related to reading or literacy. Providers can include public school districts that offer such services.

“We are excited about the opportunities this scholarship offers to parents to further customize education for their children,” said Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up For Students, the nonprofit group that will administer the program. “We also look forward to partnering with school districts and other providers to help improve academic outcomes for struggling students.”

The Florida Legislature passed the Reading Scholarship in the spring and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law. It is the first program of its kind in the nation that is available to students in public schools.

The Legislature appropriated $9.7 million for the program, enough to fund more than 19,000 scholarships statewide. The scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis. English Language Learners receive first priority.

Parents may apply at www.stepupforstudents.org.