Students who are victims of bullying, violence or abuse could get a shot at attending a new school as part of a scholarship program pushed by Florida House GOP members during this year’s upcoming legislative session.
Dubbed the “Hope Scholarship,” the new program would give funding to Florida students reporting incidents of violence, allowing them to transfer to public or private schools.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, announced the scholarship at a press conference in Tallahassee Wednesday.
Donalds will champion the bill, which derives its name from the controversial, $140 million “Schools of Hope” legislation which allows for the expansion of charter schools in Florida.
Although formal legislation for the scholarship has yet to be filed, Corcoran and Donalds said the idea behind the scholarship would be to allow students who have suffered traumas the opportunity to start anew at a different school to better fit their needs.
Students who report being the victims of bullying or violence could transfer to a different public or private school after filing a complaint. They would become eligible for the scholarship 15 days after filing a complaint.
“We want to provide that child an alternative and a way to get out of that school,” Donalds said Wednesday. “We want to make sure that the state provides that child the opportunity to continue with their education in a safe environment.”
The Hope Scholarship is modeled similarly to the state’s popular Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which currently serves around 100,000 students statewide.
The tax credit scholarship program is funded entirely by private institutions and companies who then receive tax breaks in exchange for their participation in the program.
Donalds and Corcoran said around 47,000 students could have used the scholarship last year and House leadership estimated 67,000 more students could also participate since they did not report the violence or bullying against them.
Corcoran said the scholarship, if passed, would give students the opportunity to excel in a healthier environment -- something he believes would be beneficial to students’ growth and learning capabilities.
“I fully trust parents to make that decision,” said Corcoran of the ability to switch schools. “When you put a kid in a good, safe learning environment, good results happen.”
House leadership released a short video explaining the scholarship after the press conference Wednesday.
“These innocent children are punched and kicked, bullied and battered,” the video says. “Their school becomes a prison, with no choice for a future and no way to escape, they endure abuse and suffer silently.”
The video does not say where the funds for the scholarship will come from, but Corcoran said funding would not come from the Florida Education Finance Program.
The bill, leadership said, should give kids and parents hope for better days ahead.
“No child should fear the first day of school and no parent should be powerless,” the video says in closing.