TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The education bill introduced by Republican State Sen. Dennis Baxley, of Ocala, continues to make its way through Senate committees, even after parents and students have voiced concerns that the legislation would take away scholarship money from college and university students.
“Student Financial Aid” Senate Bill 86 was first filed in February. On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education approved the bill that would make a controversial change to funding the Bright Futures Scholarship program. The proposal cleared the Senate in a 22-18 vote.
The bill specifically targets Bright Futures, Florida Academic Scholars and Florida Medallion Scholars.
The funding for the Bright Futures program would depend on funding available from the state budget.
Florida Senate Democrats raised concerns about impacts to students.
“Subjecting these students, year in and year out, to the whims of the appropriations process, in my opinion, is cruel,” State Sen. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) said.
State Sen. Tina Polsy (D-Boca Raton) said the change might force students to look elsewhere to pursue their higher education.
“I am concerned that many of our students, our top students, will not take us up on this scholarship and will go out of state,” Polsy said.
Soon 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 backlash to the initial bill, Senate Republicans amended the legislation. The amended bill was approved by members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, six to three.
An accompanying House bill has not been filed, reports the News Service of Florida.
If it passes, the change would go into effect July 1 and would impact students beginning in the 2022-23 academic year. Students already in college on Bright Futures will not be affected and will continue to receive their approved funding until they graduate college.