With Governor Ron DeSantis taking a strong stance against Critical Race Theory (CRT), “social justice,” and LGBTQ agendas being taught in Florida’s public school system, it may come as a surprise that one of Florida’s largest educational non-profits, which has partnered with the state, is a serious proponent of furthering these agendas.

Anyone interested in Step Up For Students would not easily find the page on their website dedicated to their stance on BLM and “systemic racism.” Founded in 2002 by John Kirtley, who may or may not realize that the organization he founded has adopted the mantra of Black Lives Matter (BLM), this organization is reaching nearly 150,000 students and claiming to provide nearly one billion dollars in scholarships and aid to families in Florida, which is a great accomplishment and extremely compassionate. Step Up For Students is even a staunch proponent of school choice. They had a partnership with former Governor Jeb Bush in 2001, and they continue to have a partnership with Governor Ron DeSantis’ office as it was announced on May 11, 2021  that Step Up For Students would be one of the organizations “working closely with” the Florida Department of Education in relation to Family Empowerment Scholarships. Still, Step Up For Students is using their platform to push their far left radical agenda, and likely keeping it under the radar so that their work can continue without disruption or outrage. 

Step Up For Students’ stance on BLM and “system racism and injustice” reads as follows:

“Step Up For Students joins with millions of Americans and people around the world in seeking justice for Black lives lost to racial and police violence and in condemnation of our nation’s long history of systemic racism and injustice. We firmly believe that Black lives matter, and we will continue to spread that message through education and community outreach…

We believe to be silent on these issues is to be complicit.

We do not have all the answers, but we are dedicated to denouncing injustice for all. We want to be on the frontlines of eradicating systemic and institutionalized racism and injustice. Therefore, we will continue using our platform in education choice to help our families and schools become agents of change…


Step Up For Students

(The original link now redirects to their homepage. The original statement is still available on their Facebook page here.)

This statement on their webpage is just one piece of evidence showing that they are pushing and promoting many of the tenets of Critical Race Theory and “social justice” curricula. Another prime example is the employment of Dr. Tammy Hodo as their “Chief Equity and Belonging Officer.” (See Editor’s Note.) Dr. Hodo has made many public appearances where she has stated that systemic racism and white privilege have shaped the American way of life. She was recently part of an effort in Jacksonville, FL where administrators and faculty tried to segregate students by their race. After the effort failed and the story received media attention, Dr. Hodo was sent out to do damage control. She explained the attempted segregation of students by calling the practice one modeled after “affinity groups” which she falsely asserts are a rather common practice and not the same as segregation. Even after the press and public rightfully saw this event as a racist idea, Dr. Hodo defended it and said that she would still support segregating students by the color of their skin. 

Dr. Hodo has “written course content on Implicit Biases and Microaggressions for a national educational vendor that is being used at hundreds of colleges and universities.” She has wrongly stated that she knows that people are fearful of the “browning” of America and made various other comments where she assumes that large portions of the population are racist and make everyday decisions by just looking at skin color. Still, highly troubling is that Step Up For Students seems to be hiding Dr. Hodo’s true identity, and has even denied her an email for outreach as one is listed for every leader except her and the president of the organization. A simple search for Dr. Tammy Hodo brings up that she is the founder and president of All Things Diverse LLC, but Step Up For Students makes no mention of this in their biography that lists the accomplishments and credentials of Dr. Tammy Hodo. While Step Up For Students goes out of their way to hide or discreetly share many of their far leftist ideas, All Things Diverse proudly displays their radicalism.  Dr. Tammy Hodo is even ready to face Governor Ron DeSantis in the fight over CRT, and join the Biden Administration in their quest to ruin American education. 

The people running Step Up For Students are clever enough to hide their radicalism being in the state of Florida, but that has not stopped them from expressing their views on less trafficked sites. RedefinED is a blog published by Step Up For Students where many of their radical ideas are delicately introduced to readers. This is the outlet that the president of Step Up For Students, Doug Tuthill, uses to share his radical left views. In November of 2019, Tuthill shared an article praising radical Ibram X. Kendi, calling him “refreshing and enlightening”. In the article, Education Choice and ‘How to Be An Antiracist’, Tuthill acknowledges the positive influence of Malcolm X, Huey Newton, and other socialist groups (ie. International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement a creation of the African People’s Socialist Party) on Kendi’s perspective of “the systemic nature of racism and anti-racism,” but writes in a way that would allow him to cover up his own agenda if this were to ever be revealed and questioned. He is especially thankful for Owusu Sadaukai (also known as Howard Fuller), a cofounder of Malcolm X Liberation University, for his advocacy of education choice. Tuthill writes that because of Fuller, “today’s education choice movement is deeply grounded in an anti-racist and anti-poverty agenda,” and Fuller and other “social justice warriors in the early education choice movement” led Tuthill to join the movement today. 

RedefinED also discreetly highlighted Sydney Chaffee, the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, for her belief that “education can be a tool to work toward social justice.” 

The manager of charter school initiatives for Step Up For Students, Keith Jacobs, defends educational choice on the basis of systemic racism. In his article, Choice is Empowering, Not Racist, Jacobs asserts that, “systemic racism is interwoven into the fabric of public education because it was a linchpin in establishing it over 400 years ago,” and that “systemic racism persists today.” Jacobs discreetly gives a shout out to the 1619 Project, and advocates for his readers to “take a historical approach to analyze the long and hard struggle for equity and equality…” The radical left will use any system or means to promote their agenda.

While some individuals and organizations are claiming that school choice will solve all of our problems, with Marxists assimilating and now leading the school choice movement, it will undoubtedly be perverted by their radical ideas.  Knowing that nearly all of the educators and the resources used by teachers support their radical ideas, they no longer care which school you choose. Additionally, the hundreds of millions of dollars the radical left puts into education will go straight to their schools making them the top performers. Organizations like Step Up For Students know their opposition well, and have no problem manipulating their image to deceive those who oppose the far left’s agenda. Still, they know that even with school choice, parents will be choosing between schools where they control what students learn, and this includes public, private, and charter schools. While homeschooling may save your child, society will continue to be controlled by radical leftists, forcing them to live in a country where the radical left has the ultimate power.

As discussed in a previous article, the act of formally banning CRT from being adopted into the curriculum will accomplish very little when there are countless nonprofits getting millions and billions of dollars each year who are creating educational content that is quickly circulating throughout teachers’ circles.

In addition to CRT, Step Up For Students partnered with Equality Florida to “provide LGBTQ awareness training at private schools.” The initiative involves training teachers on how to sexualize students through resources such as Advocates For Youth. The CEO of Equality Florida said that she embraces the opportunity to bring LGBTQ initiatives into faith-based schools. Step Up For Students raised $1 million on its own to fund the move. Equality Florida provides the training for teachers in private schools that accept Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and Family Empowerment Scholarship students, while Step Up staff coordinates the effort. According to Florida Politics, Step Up staff received cultural training prior to the implementation of this program in schools.  

Although the page is no longer available on their website, Step Up For Students has offered LGBTQ resources for students that included an LGBTQ youth Q&A with “questions and answers for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth,” The Trevor Project, an “LGBTQ student know your rights document,” a resource for Florida LGBTQ Youth Concerns, and National Transgender and Non-Binary Resources among many more.

In order to solve a problem, one must be aware of all that causes the problem and be willing to admit when tactics have failed and are likely to fail. We at The Locke Society are here to solve the problem and face the issues plaguing education. We will challenge these countless non-profits and educational organizations that are sneaking their way into our classrooms, consuming the minds of our teachers, influencing our students, and ultimately molding America’s future. Their actions and influence cannot be combated by any legislation as there are always loopholes to be found by those who are determined. The only way to stop their power and influence is for moderates and conservatives to enter the field of education on every level, just as they have, especially as teachers. If we refuse to be present in all classrooms, we cannot complain about our nation being destroyed from within; our inaction would be as much to blame as the actions taken by the radical left in our nation’s destruction. 

[Editor’s Note: This article was previously titled Marxists Take Over the School Choice Movement, and Billion Dollar FL Educational Nonprofit Pushing CRT Agenda.]

[Editor’s Note: As of October 29, 2021, Dr. Tammy Hodo’s name and position no longer appears on the site displaying Step Up For Students’ Leadership Team. We reached out to Step Up For Students for comment and never heard back. Dr. Hodo’s LinkedIn account still states that she is employed by Step Up For Students as of December 2021.]

[Editor’s Note: Dr. Hodo’s LinkedIn account states that her term at Step Up For Students ended as of January 2022.]

This article was last updated August 29, 2023.