Florida families can now begin applying for the first scholarship in the nation for students in K-12 grades who are bullied.
The Hope Scholarship gives parents of eligible students victimized by bullying the opportunity to choose a participating private school and receive a state-supported scholarship to attend. The program also allows parents to transfer their child to another K-12 public school with available capacity within the school district, or to receive funding to transport the student to a public school in another district.
Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, who sponsored the bill this spring creating the scholarship, said he wants to gives parents choice.
“My hope is that parents get all the information they need to act in the best interests of their children,” said Donalds. “We should look for ways to empower parents at all times with respect to the education of their children. This is one of the tools in the tool box for parents to be empowered.”
The new program is administered by Step Up For Students, a nonprofit that also publishes this blog, and applications on the organization’s web site went officially live to all families this morning.
According to a legislative analysis, more than 46,000 Florida students in the 2015-16 school year were subjected to harassment, bullying or violence in their district school. But the analysis offered no projection on how many students might apply for the scholarship. The National Center for Education Statistics reported in 2016 that more than one of every five students nationwide say they have been bullied.
Qualifying incidents for the Hope Scholarship include assault, bullying, battery, harassment, hazing, kidnapping, physical attack, robbery, threats or intimidation, sexual offenses and fighting at school.
So far, 270 private schools have signed up to participate in the Hope Scholarship.
The scholarship is funded by car buyers who can choose to designate up to $105 of sales taxes on those purchases to Step Up, and fundraising began Oct. 1. While the first month’s fundraising numbers won’t be available until mid-November, Step Up officials said the organization had received more than $200,000 as of Wednesday.
The scholarship value depends on the grade level: $6,519 for K-5, $6,815 for 6-8, and $7,111 for 9-12. The transportation scholarship is worth up to $750 and can be used to attend any out-of-district public school with available space.
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