Senate passes controversial Bright Futures proposal
Dennis Baxley. Image via Colin Hackley.

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The bill now moves to the House.

The Senate passed a controversial bill Wednesday that would remodel Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship program.

After lengthy debate, the Senate OK’d the proposal (SB 86) with a 22-18 vote, delivering a blow to the army of outspoken opponents who’ve lobbied against the measure since its inception.

Sen. Dennis Baxley of Marion County is the bill sponsor.

“The goal is to ensure we maximize every dollar the state — and the student — invests in education,” Baxley said. “This legislation creates a framework for informational resources for students and families as they choose the most beneficial major or certificate program for their future.”

Notably, Baxley’s proposal underwent major changes throughout the committee process.

Initially, the bill aimed to steer students toward degrees with more promising job prospects by denying or reducing scholarships for degree programs deemed less fruitful.

But amid strong backlash from Democrats and students, Baxley removed the provision, no longer requiring the Board of Governors and State Board of Education to create and publish a list of ineligible majors.

The bill now seeks to mandate schools place a student’s account on hold until they receive career readiness training and attest they’re aware of the financials of their career.

The measure further calls on the Board of Governors to publish data on degree fields including average salaries and student loan debt.

“Each student should be encouraged to pursue their passion, but if there are degrees that we know do not lead to jobs, we have an obligation to let the student know as they begin to choose their educational path,” Baxley added.

Despite the changes, Democrats on Thursday continued their condemnation on the Senate floor.

“I do appreciate that the sponsor and the leadership in this chamber moved it along and tried to fix some of the biggest problems we saw, but it’s clear there are still problems,” said Democratic Sen. Lori Berman.

Collectively, Democrats lambasted an original provision that would undo the merit-based scholarship’s 75% or 100% tuition and fee benefit.

By design, the bill would instead rope scholarship funding to a number determined within the state budget.

“The future of our students are too important,” Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo said. “Their financial needs are too dire for us to ruin the scholarship program.”

Republicans, meanwhile, pushed back against the narrative. They contend the scholarships have long been connected to the state budget.

Moreover, they reassure that cuts are not on the horizon.

“I just wanted everybody to know that we are funding Bright Futures,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Kelli Stargel.

Baxley’s bill moves next to the House for consideration.

If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.


4 comments

  • Illyce Binder

    April 8, 2021 at 7:50 pm

    Hi Jason,
    Thank you for covering this issue. I would love to see you write another article that shows how these Bright Futures recipients work so hard since middle school to achieve this scholarship, and how families plan years in advance as to where their child will send off college applications. These kids did everything they were asked and in return would receive 100/75% tuition. The Republican Senators just ripped that away from them! Personally, my senior only applied to Florida universities because she qualified last March 6th when she took the SAT and more than covered the 1330 she needed for full BF. She would absolutely have received merit scholarships from out of state schools. We are devastated that the legislature will now review their budget and simply take away those lottery dollars that she earned. A promise has been broken. Seems like a bunch of Senators have ownership in charter schools. We believe they will want to take this money and put it towards private school vouchers and charters. I would be happy to speak to you further about this.

    • Tom

      April 9, 2021 at 3:16 am

      There are always other scholarships available, in ADDITION to Bright Futures. Research and Apply for them all. You’re not limited to only one!

      • Cynthia

        April 10, 2021 at 1:21 am

        This is true, however they have worked hard to meet the requirements for this one and for them to snatch it away or even a portion of it, all in the name reducing student loan debt?? This is just going to increase that debt!!

  • Kelly Barron

    April 9, 2021 at 8:21 am

    Jason,
    It is always appreciated when controversial topics are brought to light. In this instance, unfortunately, the mark is missed. Where the republican senators once again passed this bill along, a few have openly admitted that they don’t agree with it, but will not vote against party line. At this point, THEY are NOT representing the wishes of their constituents. This is NOT a republican vs democrat issue. It is an issue of governemnt asserting itself for its own gain. They have been VERY evasive when asked where they intend to redirect the funds from THE LOTTERY, not tax dollars as they would have everyone believe. This almighty information that they intend to provide is ALREADY available through a VAST variety of resources that are ALREADY provided to students in high school and college. Our senators are NOT doing their research before making detrimental changes to the futures of Florida’s best and brightest. It’s infuriating to students that utilize this scholarship. It’s a disgrace that this is our state representation, once again putting Florida in the laughing stock category.
    It would be VERY much appreciated if the media outlets would paint this picture from the perspective of those being hurt by these changes and not glorifying this as a change for the better. There has been so much controversy over student debt. These changes will only add to the problem, NOT help in any way shape or form. These scholarships are awarded to our best and brightest, not students without clue. Our senators could learn a thing or two from them and GET A CLUE! There will be future elections and there will be consequences for voting AGAINST your constituents!

Comments are closed.


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