House Plugs More Money Into ‘Hope Scholarship’ Bill

A House education budget panel Tuesday modified the proposed “Hope Scholarship” bill, FL HB1 (18R), to provide more money to the program.

One of the biggest changes would up the amount someone can contribute to the program. The scholarships, which would help pay private-school tuition for students who’ve faced bullying or abuse in public schools, would be funded through voluntary contributions whenever someone registers a car.

The original measure called for $20 payments, but bill sponsor Byron Donalds (R-Naples) said that would fund an estimated 1,117 scholarships. The committee upped the contribution amount to $105, which Donalds said could fund an estimated 5,878 scholarships. The staff analysis for what the $20 figure would cost the state in lost revenue was between $34 million and $40 million, meaning the lost general revenue under the higher figure would be upward of $170 million per year.

House leaders, who see the measure as a priority, say there were 47,000 reported violent incidents in state public schools in the 2015-2016 school year, including battery, hazing, physical attacks, sexual assault, harassment and bullying.

The scholarship would be set up on a first-come, first-served basis. Students could receive the scholarship, which would pay out a percentage of typical per-student state funding, for as long as they’re in private school, until they either graduate or return to public school.

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