Florida drops effort to move up school start date

Bright Futures slashes spending, raises eligibility requirements

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The sponsor of a bill to move up the school starting date says the effort is dead for this year.

A House panel was supposed to take up the bill Tuesday. But Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, pulled the bill from consideration.

Metz said he's dropping the effort for 2013 because the Senate has refused to move a similar bill. Metz said he will try again next year.

Metz's bill (HB 657) would have allowed school districts to move up the starting date of school to three weeks before Labor Day.

Fourteen districts already start school between August 7 and August 16, but right now only "A-rated" schools are allowed to start in those times. The proposed bill would have given lesser performing districts the option as well.

The measure would undo a law pushed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush backed the change after complaints from parents about school starting dates.

Meanwhile, it may be more difficult for college students to qualify for Bright Futures scholarships. The new state guidelines will require a minimum SAT score of 1170 instead of a 980 and a minimum ACT score from 21 to 26.

The state raised the requirements after a plan to cut $50 million from its $313 million spending on the Bright Futures program.

Under new state guidelines, a University of South Florida study found that many Florida students no longer qualify. In Orange County in 2012, 90 percent of students who were accepted to Florida universities had the scores to secure a Bright Futures scholarship--that number is cut in half under the new guidelines.

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