Fresh off the story that Florida will have to pay Utah $5.4 million for piloting the state’s new tests comes news that Florida’s tremendously successful Bright Futures scholarship program will be gutted $126 million by 2017. Scott Travis provides this justification from a republican legislator in the Sun Sentinel:
In 2008, one in three qualified; now it’s one in eight, according to the Florida College Access Network, an advocacy group affiliated with the University of South Florida.
The state in 2010 dramatically increased the required SAT and ACT scores for students graduating in 2014 as a way to cut program costs. Legislators also complained the qualifications were too low to be considered a merit-based scholarship.
“There’s only so much money to go around for education. If you’re giving a merit-based award, it should be to the top students in the state,” said state Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale.
Moraitis, who never misses a chance to propose legislation which lines the pockets of rich charter school operators, now wants to strengthen the hand of big testing companies. The more times a family has to pay for another test, the more money they make. A much better predictor of future success has always been a student’s performance in the classroom. It’s why we have begun weighing GPAs to appreciate the rigor of Honors and AP classes.
Republicans like Moraitis aren’t going to be able to dodge the reality that they are hurting minority students while Jeb Bush is out there telling the nation how swell his education policies have been for minority students.
“This is a significant disinvestment of the state’s financial resources, and it broadly impacts students,” said Troy Miller, a senior researcher at policy analyst for the Florida College Access Network.
The changes are expected to have the greatest impact on minority students. The federal government’s Office of Civil Rights is investigating whether Bright Futures’ test score requirements discriminate against black and Hispanic students, a department spokesman said.
There are a couple of bills in the Legislature that would keep the eligibility requirements the same as last year, but they’ve yet to be scheduled for debate.
“I was told it was a nonpriority,” said Rep. Ricardo Rangel, D-Kissimmee, who sponsored one of the bills. “They’re not going to hear it, because to change it, they would have to restructure everything in the budget.”
Florida Republicans have so many contradictory balls in the air right now, that even they can’t keep up with them. This double-down on SAT and ACT doesn’t jibe with the Common Core double-down which is supposed to create more classroom rigor. How does this Bright Futures slash and choke fit in with their new alternative HS graduation paths – which is one of the good ideas they have? Many minority males will be taking a vocational education path which requires them to move to a two-year post secondary school.
Decision-making on Florida education policy is done inside the small echo chamber enclosed in the offices of republican legislators in Tallahassee where self-righteous, narrow themes dominate. Its been a long time since it’s actually been about students in Tallahassee.