Restrictions to be placed on Bright Futures causes fret

Eve Murdick, Staffer

Republican Florida Sen. Dennis Baxley announced that he intends to make requirements for Bright Futures stricter when he proposed Senate Bill 86.  

This bill consists of intentions of only giving full amounts based on the student’s choice and path of study as well as their history at their high school. This wanted restriction poses an issue for students who are reliant on this scholarship. 

Student debt is one of the largest financial struggles of Americans nationwide, and this change to Bright Futures is not for the better,” savebrightfutures.org said in a statement. “Reducing or restricting Bright Futures in any way will negatively affect Florida’s universities and high performing students.” 

If the bill is passed, students willfirst of allhave to be enrolled in programs that “lead directly to employment. This means that a student can only get the scholarship if the course of study they choose a certain major. This causes a horrid amount of bias; state education officials will be forced to make a list of majors that are not approved. This list has not been produced yet, but it is likely that will pose a heavy limitation on majors consisting of or surrounding the arts and humanities, based on what Sen. Baxley previously said. 

“Today’s economy requires people to be constantly learning and changing,” Debra Humphrey, spokeswoman for the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said. “A lot of jobs that high school students are likely to have 10 years from now don’t yet exist, so preparing too narrowly will not serve them well.” 

Supporters of the bill concur that Bill 86 would save money as well as boost Florida’s economy, which may not be true due to the fact that the scholarships get funding from the Florida Lottery, money people are willing to spend, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Those originating from lower socioeconomic standing are typically those who partake in the purchase of lottery tickets in hopes of winning. Moreover, this scholarship is to help students who are especially of these lower economic backgrounds.  

“This sort of limitation will only funnel bright minds out-of-state and away from the Florida economy,” Tampa Bay Times said. “There is good in this bill, but that should not overshadow the real harm this can do to Florida students.” 

There has been an increasing amount of opposition to the bill by both teachers and students around the state because it would slash several humanitarian programs at FL. UniversitiesOn March 16, dozens of students and teachers urging state senators to not vote for Senate Bill 86 during an Education Committee hearing. One of these individuals was Alexandra Valdes 

At the meeting, Valdes said“Many students at FIU and throughout the state university system rely on Florida Bright Futures to continue their education in Florida. We are still concerned about the repeal of the promise to pay either 100 or 75 percent of student [tuition] and fees for Bright Futures students.” 

Concerns were raised by Republican and Democratic senators that attended the meeting, stating that the legislature would be responsible for deciding what degrees many students seek and their paths in college. 

“We talk a lot about school choice and capitalism and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps… All of those things are at risk with this bill,” Sen. Tina Scott Polsky, a Democrat from Palm Beach, said. 

Baxley said he still wants to challenge high school students in hopes of a response where students will become more productive in response to the concerns and cries over the protentional limit on student access to education in FL. 

“A certain amount of exertion and desperation in life challenges us to be our best,” Baxley said. “I know we have to take risks and do things differently if we want more productive outcomes. I look forward to challenging them.” 

Senate Bill 86 passed through the Education Committee, with a 5-4 voteRepublican senators voted in favor and the Democrats voted against it. Although it passed at the committee, there is still a chance for the bill to be overturned: it must still go through the full Senate body before becoming law. 

The bill passed the Senate Education Committee with 5-4 votes,” alligator.org, the University of FL. Newspaper states. “Gov. Ron DeSantis signaled opposition to the bill Wednesday when he expressed support for the scholarship program during a press conference, saying he believes many Florida families rely on Bright Futures.” 

Q & A with Save Bright Futures, an organization dedicated to voicing concerns of Bright Futures scholarship restrictions. 

Q: How did your organization start and how does it currently work?  

A: Our organization consists of a group of 7-8 high school students. Someone in this group brought the bill to our attention and we all decided to do something about it. Although we all have specific roles in the organization, most of the time we all work together on certain aspects. 

Q: How are you advocating for Bright Futures? Are you collaborating with students or other organizations?  

A: We are advocating for Bright Futures by raising awareness about the threats that this bill may pose to current Bright Futures recipients and future ones. We also have a letter writing campaign on our website which will automatically write and send a letter to your legislators. 

Q: Have you supported any other causes in the past? If so, which one(s)?  

A: None of us have started any political organization like this one before. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the restrictions Senator Baxley attempted to put on Bright Futures?  

A: When SB 86 was first proposed, we were devastated that Senator Baxley was trying to take away our funding through an approved majors list and the number of postsecondary education courses one takes. We strongly opposed this bill and spread awareness about it. Our advocacy worked as Senator Baxley listened to the student opposition of the bill and removed some of the restrictions that were placed on the Bright Futures Scholarship. Although this is a step in the right direction, our work is not yet done. The amount of funding that is given to students is still not guaranteed under this new amendment.  

Q: Will you continue to make sure that Bright Futures is not being restricted even if this bill goes through? 

A: We will continue to make sure that Bright Futures is not being restricted and to expand education accessibility. 

Q: What do you plan to do with the petition on your website? 

A: As of right now our plans for the petition are not completely solidified yet but we will let you know what our plans are. 

Q: Any other comments you would like to give 

A: We would like to encourage everyone to contact their legislators! One call can make the difference of tens of thousands of dollars lost for students and parents across the state of Florida. Visit our website savebrightfutures.org for more information! The “about us” section on our website has a list of all the high school students involved!