Fla. House announces new school choice push for violence victims

Byron Donalds presser

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, announces a new school choice proposal during a press conference at the state Capitol.

Victims of bullying, abuse or violence would get access to a new school choice program announced today by Florida House leaders.

Flanked by Republicans who chair the House’s education committees, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, said they plan to provide funding for children who want to transfer to public or private schools after reporting incidents of violence.

The “Hope Scholarship” legislation hasn’t emerged yet. But the lawmakers spelled out some details at today’s press conference.

The scholarships would be funded outside the main public-school budget. K-12 students could qualify 15 days after filing a complaint. While Corcoran didn’t list all the specifics, he said students report nearly 47,000 qualifying incidents of bullying, hazing or abuse each year. The majority involve violence.

Donalds said the goal is to help students escape trauma. He said they shouldn’t have to hide from tormentors while they’re trying to focus on class.

“We want to provide that child an alternative and a way to get out of that school,” he said. “We want to make sure that the state provides that child the opportunity to continue with their education in a safe environment.”

Donalds helped found a charter school in Southwest Florida. His wife, Erika, is a Collier County school board member. He’s taken on a growing role in education policy going into his second session in the Legislature.

Corcoran said private schools that accept scholarship students would be subject to the “same accountability” that exists for Florida’s tax credit scholarships. Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer that program.

An existing voucher program, the McKay Scholarship for children with special needs, similarly allows students to transfer to either public or private schools.

This is a developing story. We’ll update this post with more details as we get them.

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