March 29, 2021

Sue Kingery Woltanski: Dennis Baxley Gets Real about Bright Futures Funding

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The Accountabaloney blog has been watching the Florida legislature try to darken Bright Futures, a lottery-funded scholarship program that has been helping Florida students afford a college education for years.

Bright Futures has been under attack by a bill that proposed initially that only majors that would lead to a good job would qualify for scholarships (heaven only knows who would make that determination, or how). The bill has been tweaked in the face of considerable protest, but as this post points out, the scholarship program is still facing considerable challenge, thanks to Senator Dennis Baxley.

When Senator Baxley’s controversial Bright Futures bill, SB86, was heard before the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee on 03/23/21, he made it clear that Florida’s government can make no future funding guarantees. Bright Futures, he said, remains a very strong priority, “the top priority” even. Then he suggested that the lottery proceeds which fund Bright Futures could be used “to improve education over all” but, for now, the Legislature had no intention of reducing Bright Future scholarships… for now. The amendment he passed during the 3/23 committee stop was clearly written to give future legislatures flexibility to reduce scholarship funding if future priorities were to change… He reiterated “I think it’s a lot more honest for people to say, we can’t guarantee what’s going to happen…”

Hmmm… his suggestion that, rather than funding Bright Futures, Florida Lottery money could be used “to improve education over all” is a red flag. I am willing to bet that the plan, down the road, is to use lottery proceeds to fund expansion to universal private school vouchers in Florida, like the ESAs created in SB48/HB7045 this session. Like the senator says: “we can’t guarantee what’s going to happen…” but we can read the writing on the wall…

You can read the full account here–0ne more sad Florida story.

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