Florida Bill Could Expand Hope Scholarship Access


Florida State Sen. Manny Diaz (R-District 36) is sponsoring legislation that would expand opportunities for students to be able to attend a school of their choice through the Hope Scholarship program. SB 506 would amend the Hope Scholarship program to permit students who attend school districts who are not complying with state law to apply for the program and receive a voucher.

“The Hope Scholarship Program is established to provide the parent of a public school student who was subjected to an incident listed in subsection (3) or who attends a school overseen by a district school board that is subject to ongoing action initiated by the State Board of Education…”

The bill seemingly is in lockstep with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) banning mask mandates, and the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) codifying the same rule. Numerous Florida school districts, earlier this year, refused to comply with the state’s requirements and implemented mask mandates anyway.

Subsequently, a legal challenge ensued with the school districts challenging the FDOH rule. It was not until mid-November that the school districts dropped the suit and ended their mask mandates.

Diaz indicated this was a reason for the legislation in a committee meeting this week.

“Especially with the outcry we’ve seen recently from parents being upset with school boards for various reasons — including, in some cases, where they (school boards) decided not to follow the law — and they’re increasingly frustrated,” Diaz said. “This provides those parents to have the option to make that decision for their student.”

Diaz also subtly referenced the “Parental Bill of Rights” legislation signed DeSantis earlier this year. The bill ensures parents have the authority to make health decisions for their children as well as moral dilemmas like sex education exposure in public schools.

“This Legislature has spoken over and over again, clearly, that parents have the rights over their child,” Diaz said. “And this allows them to make that decision in the case where they may feel hopeless because of the fact that the district has violated the law or rules and is not complying, giving them (parents) an option for them to take advantage for their students.”

The bill passed the Senate Education committee by a vote of 6-4, with the Republicans voting in favor and Democrats opposing. There is no House companion bill to accompany SB 506.

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Photo “Manny Diaz” by State Senator Manny Diaz Jr.





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