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Politics

Senate Committee Passes 'Hope Scholarship' Bill for Victims of Bullying

January 22, 2018 - 6:00pm

A bill to give scholarships to Florida students being bullied is weaving its way through the Florida Capitol, passing through the Florida Senate Education Committee Monday afternoon.

SB 1172, sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, would establish a scholarship for students in grades K-12 who are victims of bullying in Florida. 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. 

The scholarship derives its name from the controversial, $140 million “Schools of Hope” legislation which passed last summer and allowed for the expansion of charter schools in Florida.

Students who report bullying, hazing, battery or other forms of harassment would qualify for the scholarship, which would allow them to transfer to a different public or private school following their complaint.

According to the bill, scholarships cannot be paid out if a student is enrolled in a public school, virtual school or is receiving any other type of scholarship. 

To further vet bullying claims, Galvano proposed an amendment requiring principals to investigate incidents of bullying or violence before students qualify for the scholarship.

Committee members expressed some reservations about how, exactly, lawmakers define “bullying,” while questioning where the funding for the Hope Scholarship program would come from. 

“I am concerned about the over breadth of the definition,” said Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point.

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, agreed with Farmer, saying he believed the term “bullying” was widely used and encouraged legislators to narrow down the definition to avoid an oversaturation of scholarships for incidents which aren’t actually “bullying” after all.

“The devil is always going to be in the details and I would encourage us to focus hard on the definition of what qualifies [as bullying] in this program,” said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon. 

But Lee also conceded he believed many situations some might call “bullying” just happen to be part of everyday life.

“Heck, I’m bullied up here [in Tallahassee] every week,” Lee said. “I don't know what you call this stuff...but this is part of life, to some extent.”

Opponents of the measure have further questioned the motives of the scholarship program, viewing it as an attempt to expand the state’s voucher program.
 
“Frankly we are not falling for this one,” said Marie-Claire Leman of Common Ground Florida, a coalition of various education groups statewide. “It’s not about bullying, it’s a thinly veiled attempt to expand funding for private vouchers.”

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.

 Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, is sponsoring identical legislation in the House, where the measure has already gathered support from House leadership, including Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes. 
 
“When you put a kid in a good, safe learning environment, good results happen,” Corcoran said. 

The Senate version of the bill now heads to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre K-12 Education.

 

 

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.

 

 


 

Comments

I am a parent of a 4th grader who was bullied BY HER TEACHER. The school district has done nothing to remedy the situation, even when the teacher admits to the behavior. We just put our daughter in private school because of it.. If the school districts are stupid enough to allow this to go on, even when you tell them its happening, they don't deserve to be funded.

who's to say a charter or private school is any better than public schools. This is all more ways to syphon off education dollars to pay back donors. Most charter schools I have seen are train wrecks... Some are very good, but they are definitely in the minority. and you wonder why we are 23rd in the world in education and falling... Finland is #1 with zero, none, nada, Charter schools... They just fund their schools and pay their teachers appropriately with no standardized testing or stupid school grades. The Floriduh legislature is a joke!

THIS IS PATHETIC TO THE EXTREME ! Our "Senate" is peopled with morons wasting our tax monies and creating a 'soft' and litigious society... If it weren't for "attendance trophies", today's kids would have no self-worth at all, and NO "educational help" to discern their "place in the world" backed by EARNED self-worth. The "Wusses" in the Senate are creating "wusses" in ALL stages of "acadamia" (top to bottom)! DRAIN THE SWAMP!!!

Let me start by saying that I support charter schools and a voucher system. However, I see this as a “snowflake scholarship.” Part of growing up is learning how to handle oneself in difficult situations, including dealing with bullies. In today’s society, being a victim of this or that has become a badge of honor. As pointed out in the article, defining the term “bullying” is extremely important. Otherwise, every negative comment or action becomes “bullying” which actually minimizes true bullying. Very careful thought needs to be given to this bill before it is passed. Rather than awarding scholarships to those who are bullied, why isn’t the perpetrating bully removed and sent to a type of “reform” school? I see no consequences for the bully in this bill. Where is the punishment for the bully??

Someone is being greased with this. Say you are bullied get a scholarship. What about all the Illegals in Florida? Will they qualify? How about preventing bullying? How about mandatory parenting training scholarships for the Bully's parents? If your kid has been a bully, having parents attend Parenting Training would address problem. If I had to attend a 40 hour course because my kid was a bully, you can bet there would be no more bullying done by my kid.

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