TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa area parents are feeling unheard and disrespected. They are trying to convince state senators to vote against Senate Bill 86, which will make major changes to Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship. They’ve been fighting the bill for the last year.
“They’re not listening to us,” said Anna Beard.
Beard has a daughter at Florida State University, and another daughter will be in college in about two years.
“She is working hard to get the scholarship, and it might not even be available to her,” Beard added.
Parents and students won a major victory with the bill a few weeks ago, when lawmakers killed the portion of the bill limiting the scholarships to degrees deemed unlikely to lead to employment by the state.
“The funding is still a problem,” said Vanessa Minick.
Minick has three children. Her oldest is at the University of Tampa and her middle child is a senior in high school. He’s also a national merit finalist.
Minick said her son worked hard to make sure he could get the Bright Futures scholarship.
Currently, Bright Futures promises to pay 75 to 100 percent of student tuition. The money comes from the lottery fund.
If the bill is approved, the money for the scholarship will come from the general fund and lawmakers will decide how much will go into the scholarship every year.
So, while the scholarship will still be available, the uncertainty of the dollar amount has students' parents uneasy.
“We can’t plan,” said Beard. “I can’t say I’m going to owe $3,000 next year. We don’t know what it will be, because it will be up to the legislature, unlike now where it’s set in stone, 75 or 100 percent.”
Senator Dennis Baxley (R) introduced the bill. It will likely be approved by the GOP-controlled Senate despite push back.
“It’s very discouraging because the belief is, if you share your voice with your elected officials they’re supposed to act on behalf of their constituents and we’re getting the opposite,” said Minick.
Parents and students are warning lawmakers about elections.
“I don’t want to be a single voting issue person, but when I go to vote I will remember what these folks did,” said Beard.
Two of Minick’s children will be voting age soon, “and I think this is going to color their future outlook.”
If the bill passes, the Senate still has to make it through the full house and to the governor’s desk to be signed before it becomes law.