Florida Senate could overhaul controversial Bright Futures bill following backlash

Amendment filed would no longer tie scholarship amounts to certain degrees

Florida Bright Futures revamp clears its first hurdle
Florida Bright Futures revamp clears its first hurdle

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In an apparent victory for opponents, the Senate this week could drastically overhaul a controversial proposal aimed at reducing state Bright Futures scholarships for students in degree programs deemed unlikely to lead to jobs.

The measure (SB 86), sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, initially included a proposal that would have eliminated Bright Futures scholarships for students who didn’t pursue certain degrees. It was changed by Baxley last week to, in part, propose reducing scholarship amounts for students not seeking degrees on approved lists of programs.

But an amendment filed Monday by Baxley would no longer tie scholarship award amounts to certain degrees. The measure is scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

[TRENDING: Police fire pepper balls at Fla. spring breakers | Buc-ee’s opens in Daytona Beach | Data: AstraZeneca effective for all ages]

“My goal in filing Senate Bill 86 was to begin the discussion about both the cost and the value of the degrees and programs within our higher education system. Based on your feedback, and with that goal in mind, I have filed an amendment that represents a concrete step forward in this discussion, while at the same time preserving the merit-based financial aid benefits our students earned in high school, regardless of which undergraduate path the student chooses,” Baxley wrote in a letter to senators Monday.

Under Baxley’s amendment, the state university system’s Board of Governors, the State Board of Education and Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida would craft and publish lists of degrees they deem not likely to lead to employment. However, the lists would have no bearing on how Bright Futures scholarships and Benacquisto Scholarships for National Merit scholars are awarded.

Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, credited the many people who spoke out against the measure, mostly students, with prompting the change.

“I am glad to see that public opposition was enough to stop this awful legislation for now, but we must remain vigilant to ensure this language doesn’t show up hidden in the back of the budget,” Cruz wrote in a tweet Monday.