Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Rep. Byron Donalds have unveiled their plan to challenge violence and abuse in schools.
On Wednesday in Tallahassee, the two explained how “Hope Scholarships” would be available to students who were victims of abuse in public school so they could attend another school.
The plan is meant to take students out of hostile environments because, according to Corcoran, “where there is intimidation, violence and abuse, that child’s learning pretty much ceases to exist."
The scholarships would allow the students to move to either another public school in their district or a private school.
Most details of the proposal have not been hammered out yet, but Corcoran assured reporters that the funding for students to attend private schools would not come out of the Florida Education Finance Program.
He said the scholarships would be similar to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, where businesses receive tax credits for money they donate to organizations. In turn, those organizations would give students private school scholarships. Such a move could protect the bill from legal challenges that Florida's voucher program has faced.
By structuring the proposal like the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, the House could avert legal challenges.
Further details, such as transportation, “parents would have to take in account when entering the program,” said Fred Piccolo, Corcoran's communication director.
Step one to enter the program would be to report the bullying incident and after 15 days, if the problem was not resolved to their satisfaction, the parent would have the opportunity to enter their child into the Hope program.
Corcoran said that there are currently about 47,000 reported incidents of violence and abuse in schools, including battery, hazing, physical attacks, sexual assault, harassment, and bullying.
He added that 85 percent of bullying continues with no intervention, leaving many students with few options.
“That is why call them Hope scholarships...because what you’re finally giving that child is hope that, yes, they can go out there and have their slice of the American dream,” said Corcoran.