A few days ago, rising college students breathed a collective sigh of relief upon hearing news of sweeping amendments to SB 86-a bill that would penalize college credit earned in high school and deny scholarships to students based on their selected major. People celebrated the power of using their voice to make meaningful change and rejoiced in the fact that the bill no longer threatened to punish students in this way. I'm here to tell you that all of the celebration was premature. Bright Futures is still in jeopardy.
To be honest with you, I'm not sure the amendments to the bill weren’t part of the plan to limit Bright Futures all along. To present an outrageously unpopular bill only to amend it to "fix" all of the parts people hated about it is one great way to get people to ignore the substance of the bill you actually wanted to pass in the first place. Headlines after the amendment read "SB 86 No Longer Limits Funding Based on Major" and "Senator Baxley Removes Provision to Punish College Credit Earners", and people saw this and celebrated thinking the remaining language in the bill was inconsequential. The remaining language in the bill is actually extremely harmful and it also impacts more students than the original unpopular version.
In the newly amended version of the bill, the state legislature would gain the right to change the amount of funding students are able to receive through Bright Futures. This includes all students who are going to go to college in the future AND all students who are currently in college. This means that even if you get (or got) a certain score on your SAT or maintain(ed) a specific GPA in high school, you will not be guaranteed 100% or even 75% funding regardless of your completion of the previous qualifications or if you were guaranteed that funding in the past.
The thing that frustrates me the most about this bill isn't that senators who support it are lying about "saving taxpayer money" (Bright Futures is a privately funded program). The most frustrating thing to me is that it breaks a promise made to students. When students are in high school they are made aware that there are a series of hoops they should jump through and test scores they should attain and if they do all of these things they will get a certain amount of assistance through Bright Futures scholarship funding. All Bright Futures recipients who are currently in college completed their end of the deal and many other high school students are currently paying to take the SAT and ACT multiple times to get the scores that they need, and taking classes to boost their GPA under the assumption that this will pay off in the long run. This newly amended bill rescinds the state's end of the bargain and pulls the rug out from students who in good faith did their best in high school under the condition that they would be rewarded for their efforts.
I can not imagine a sleazier, slimier, more disgusting political effort than this one. If you are a student in Florida right now who is benefitting off of Bright Futures, the new amended bill will give the legislature the power to take that funding away from you. Maybe you're thinking that they won't really do that. If they didn't want to fundamentally change the Bright Futures funding you receive, they wouldn't be trying to pass this bill. If you are a high schooler in Florida right now working to complete your end of the deal, this new amended bill will allow the state of Florida to look you in the face and tell you that what you did is no longer worth the scholarship you were promised. This bill is not only outrageously frustrating, it's also mean. Imagine telling your little sibling or cousin that if they do ten jumping jacks and run two laps around the backyard you'll give them a piece of candy, and when they complete all of their tasks you look them in the face and shove the Snickers down your gullet instead. That's what this bill does to students and it's mean and it's gross and it shouldn't be allowed to happen.
If it was the voices of the people that prompted Baxley to amend his original bill, let's continue to be vocal about this assault on students. Just because the bill was amended doesn't mean that the bill is good. Just because the public outcry is over doesn't mean that the bill won't negatively impact students. If it's true that the people inspired the changes to the bill, then we should all keep the same energy and do whatever we can to keep this bill from passing. Call your senator, speak out against the bill, share this article with your friends, raise awareness about the new bill and the effects it will have on students in Florida. Do whatever you can to protect the funding you or your friends or your child were promised to receive.