Dennis Baxley nixes plan to tie Bright Futures scholarships to job prospects
Dennis Baxley. Image via Colin Hackley.

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Instead, students just need to say they received info on career prospects to stay in school.

Sen. Dennis Baxley is scrapping large portions of his controversial proposal to push students toward “meaningful careers.”

Baxley on Monday filed an amendment rewriting his proposal (SB 86) to tweak the state’s financial aid programs for undergraduate and graduate students. Included among the scrapped plans is a provision to reduce Bright Futures and Benacquisto Scholarship awards for students seeking degrees or certificates flagged as those that lead to fewer job opportunities.

The Ocala Republican’s strike-all amendment removes several parts of the bill that drew outcry from opposition, including students.

“We have awakened a giant,” Baxley wrote in a letter to colleagues. “We have to reconnect the education and economic model and we have begun that process.”

To replace the headlining proposal, Baxley’s amendment would put a hold on freshmen’s registrations during the year. To get that hold lifted, students would have to get career readiness training and to affirm that they learned about the financials of their career.

Democrats, including Tampa Democratic Sen. Janet Cruz, highlighted the changes. But Cruz tweeted that their work isn’t done yet.

“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,” she said.

The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to hear the bill during meetings this week on Tuesday and Wednesday. At the bill’s prior hearing, 70 speakers testified on the bill. Only one spoke in favor of it.

“I believe we should encourage all students to pursue their passions, but the fact remains that higher education comes at a significant cost to both students and taxpayers and there needs to be at least some element of career planning involved,” Baxley wrote.

The amendment would also remove the plan to reduce Bright Futures credits based on the number of acceleration credits obtained.

The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday voted 5-4, along party lines to advance the proposal after postponing it the week before. That panel staked its changes to the bill after criticism from students and supporters, and Republicans acknowledged it still needed work.

Baxley gave the sticking quote of the meeting.

“If all you do is TikTok and Facebook, you can’t work in a modern office today,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference in Naples the day after, DeSantis signaled his stance on the measure.

“I think Bright Futures is something that Florida families have relied upon,” he said. “It’s something that I support. I fully funded it in my budget, and we hope the Legislature follows suit on that as well.”

Baxley contends the proposal was not a cost-saving measure. However, a committee staff analysis notes spending would decrease if the bill takes effect as written before the latest amendment.

The proposed legislation has undergone several hiccups. The bill was supposed to be heard in the Education Committee two weeks ago, but that meeting was delayed a week after senators received strong public opposition.

Baxley told reporters that he hit the brakes to consider input in the hopes of satisfying students and those affected.

The Senator’s letter sent Monday shares a similar tone.

Currently, there is no House companion measure to Baxley’s bill.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


8 comments

  • Michelle Rhein

    March 22, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    Baxley took out the part that caused the most uproar, but the language is still there to limit majors later if they want. The bill as written will divert money from the fund into pet projects therefore defunding bright futures eventually.
    Nix the bill in its entirety!

  • Edith A. Farmer

    March 22, 2021 at 4:26 pm

    Hello, my name is Edith Farmer. I am the the parent of three boys. Two High School Seniors and a Freshman. This program is vital for their future as middle class working parents. Without it, our children would be strapped with very costly debt when they graduate and attain their much needed degrees. Stop the bill in it’s entirety. Please!!
    Signed,
    A very concerned parent

  • Jennie Schneider

    March 22, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    Leave bright futures alone!! These students work hard and persevere to attain this scholarship. Don’t take away their chances of success in the future. Not everyone can afford higher level education.

  • Steven Kirn, Ph.D.

    March 23, 2021 at 9:25 am

    John Henry Newman spoke of “The Idea of a University” in the mid-1800s. (Easy Google links!) I read it while in college. His language is tied to the times (e.g., masculine references to “a man…”) but the ideas are universal. I am appalled at the constricted understanding of how knowledge progresses in Sen. Baxley’s original — and even new and improved, or whatever — bill. Apart from the many careers that began with, um, “humble” salary prospects, do we REALLY want to peg student support to the “career of the moment”? Financial investment? Engineering (which has its own ups and downs)? Law? I could go on. All admirable pursuits, but no guarantees! My UF Ph.D. is in Clinical and Community Psychology, but I spent 30 years in corporate management for very large national/global companies. So, to cite Newman:
    “Certainly a liberal education does manifest itself in a courtesy, propriety, and polish of word and action, which is beautiful in itself, and acceptable to others; but it does much more.”
    I don’t personally claim the above wisdom or practice, but I do know that Literature, History, Art, Dance, Music, Philosophy, Sociology, Biology, Archeology and so many other courses of study are essential to our culture and future — in ways we cannot predict!

  • Jenny Smith

    March 23, 2021 at 6:16 pm

    Please leave Bright Futures alone! We have been counting on the 100% bright futures. My daughter has worked so hard to get this and deserves this scholarship!

  • Craig

    March 24, 2021 at 12:10 am

    Vote Baxley out. Maybe spend more time preventing illegals from receiving education and health care at the middle class’s expense

  • david carrillo

    March 24, 2021 at 7:41 am

    At the same Baxley’s (SB 1728) “grandparent tuition waiver bill” appears to be an attempt of a straight up reduction of Bright Futures for our children while shifting those saving to cover out-of-state grandchildren tuition shortfall by giving them in-state-tuition. Not to mention the increased competition of a huge influx of out-of-state students would cause for our kids.

  • Chuck Rifenberg

    March 25, 2021 at 11:52 pm

    My daughter is a High School Senior, and is intending on Majoring in Psychology. From what I understand, Psychology would not be included in the list of Majors that (according to Dennis Baxley) would not be able to find a job after graduation. Well, Mr. Baxley, let me say that her intention is to open up her own practice in the future, and become a psychologist. Isn’t that a good paying job? There certainly is a huge demand with all the craziness all around us. She has had fellow students approach her for consultation since she was about 10 years old. She is smart (she was accepted for the higher-level Bright Futures) and is dedicated to her goal (she is good at what she does and I believe in her). This bill is not a fair by any means, and you should be ashamed of yourself for it’s proposal. Who sir are you to determine which majors will have a job after college?

Comments are closed.


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