TALLAHASSEE, Florida. – The education bill introduced by Republican State Senator Dennis Baxley, of Ocala, continues to make its way through Senate committees, even after parents and students raised concerns about the that the legislation would take away scholarships from college and university students.
Senate Bill 86 on “Student Financial Assistance” was first introduced in February. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on Thursday approved the bill that would make a controversial change in funding for the Bright Futures scholarship program. The proposal cleared the Senate by a 22-18 vote.
The bill specifically targets Bright Futures, Florida Academic Scholars, and Florida Medallion Scholars.
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Funding for the Bright Futures program would depend on funding available from the state budget.
Florida Senate Democrats have raised concerns about the impacts on students.
“Subjecting these students, year after year, to the vagaries of the credit process, in my opinion, is cruel,” State Senator Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) said.
State Senator Tina Polsy (D-Boca Raton) said the change could force students to look elsewhere to pursue higher education.
“I am concerned that many of our students, our best students, will not accept this scholarship from us and leave the state,” Polsy said.
Shortly after the original bill was proposed, Jocelyn Meyer, a senior at Rockledge High School, created an online petition that now has more than 139,000 signatures.
Following negative reactions to the original bill, Senate Republicans amended the legislation. The amended bill was approved by members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education six to three.
A bill from the accompanying Chamber has not been tabled, reports the News Service of Florida.
If passed, the change would take effect on July 1 and impact students starting in the 2022-2023 academic year. Students already in college on Bright Futures will not be affected and will continue to receive their approved funding until they graduate from college.
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