Now that HB7055, commonly known as the "bullying bill," has passed the House, it has moved to the Senate, where it will be heard in the Education Committee this Tuesday, February 20th at 11:00am. Under a "strike-all" amendment that Senator Hukill filed, the content of the bill has changed to eliminate some House provisions and to reflect Senate positions on a number of issues. Still included in the bill, however, is the Hope Scholarship, which will allow children who have been subjected to a classmate's verbal or physical abuse to attend a different public or private school at state expense.
The Hope Scholarship has two major flaws. First, it does nothing to address the behavior of offenders, thus leaving them in place to victimize other students. Second, it diverts the tax dollars we pay when we buy a new or used car from the state treasury to private schools, without taking into account the ability of the victim's parents to finance a private education on their own, the academic performance of the private school, or its policies regarding incidents of physical or verbal abuse.
Florida PTA opposes the expansion of school choice without full accountability, and the diversion of tax dollars away from general revenues, where they can be used to address the needs of all Floridians. At a time when we have been made newly aware of gaps in our ability to protect our students and our schools, and of our obligations towards teachers and other school personnel, three of whom have just laid down their lives, we must insist that our precious dollars be spent where it counts the most.
Please email your legislator today and tell them to provide real, common-sense solutions to the problems of bullying and other abusive behavior. Tell them as well to exercise sound fiscal judgment, and to allocate our tax dollars in support of all of our students, their teachers, and their schools. To do otherwise would mean that the lessons we have learned these past few days have been wasted on us.