The Florida Legislature is considering a proposal that would allow parents to transfer their bullied children from public to private schools with a state grant to help them pay for tuition.
Under the proposal, even those who aren’t eligible for an income-based grant can still avail of a state-funded private school voucher averaging $6,800 a year expressly for children who have been bullied in public schools. This would apply regardless of a family’s income.
The proposal will be called “Hope Scholarships”, the first of its kind for the country. The grants would be funded by car buyers who voluntarily “redirect”$105 from their registration fee to the program, according to the bill passed by the Florida House. Both religious and secular private schools would be eligible.
Under the proposal, students would be eligible “if their parents told administrators they had been bullied, battered, harassed, hazed, sexually assaulted or harassed, robbed, kidnapped, threatened or intimidated at school.” The allegation would not even have to be proven under the House bill. The counterpart Senate bill, however, would require the principal’s substantiation.
Not everyone is supportive of the bill, however. Even those whose children were bullied in school said the program will do nothing to stop the problem of bullying. The state teachers union also opposes the program, saying it is part of an effort to weaken public schools.
A 2016 study by the National Center for Education Statistics showed there’s really not much of a difference in bullying between public and private schools. Florida public schools reported 47,000 incidents of bullying last year, which is likely an undercount considering the 3-million student population statewide.
Supporters project $40 million redirected funds from car buyers annually that could fund about 5, 800 vouchers. Lead sponsor, Rep. Byron Donalds believes parents will only seek the grant after a “string of serious incidents.”