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Bright Future Scholarship Program Still Under Federal Investigation for Claims of Discrimination

ustin Scott Campbell
Credit ustin Scott Campbell

A decade long investigation into Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship Program has been revived. Authorities have requested data on Bright Futures winners, and next week they plan to discuss the investigation with critics of the program.

12 years ago the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights began looking into claims that Bright Futures discriminates against Latino and African-American students. Mainly, because Bright Futures uses SAT and ACT cut-off scores for eligibility. “It should be true also that those who do well in high school get a chance at college, not just those who fill out bubbles well on Saturday mornings”, said  RobertShaefferofFairTest, the organization that helped file the complaint. 

 FairTest wants more emphasis on high school grades, and less on standardized tests. Florida Department of Education spokesman Joe Follick says the program is for students who do well in school. “The bright futures scholarship purely is merit-based, and based on performance in school”, Follick said. Groups like FairTest argue that the hard limit on test scores sidelines students from poorer backgrounds who can’t afford test prep. The Florida Department of Education doesn’t agree. Fair Test says it will talk about the investigation with the Office for Civil Rights will next week. I’m CarmelDelshad, in Orlando. Critics of Florida’s Bright Future’s Scholarships say they expect an update on a long-running federal investigation into the program next week. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights first began looking into Bright Futures in 2002 after a complaint fromFairTestand other groups. FairTest says the program discriminates against Latino and African-American students because it uses SAT and ACT cut-off scores for eligibility. Florida Department of Education spokesman JoeFollicksays that’s not the case. “The bright futures scholarship is merit based", said Follick. "There are no criteria for race or gender, it is based on how well you perform in school and performing volunteer hours. FairTest says they expect to talk to federal officials about the investigation on Monday.

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Carmel Delshad
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