Written By: Sydney Cinalli
Jimmie Smith, a Florida Republican house representative, filed a bill on Wednesday, December 12, 2012, that provides that the Bright Futures Scholarship Program will require college graduates to stay and work in Florida; thus, in order to avoid reimbursement, they would remain in state for the duration of six months for every semester they receive in scholarship funds.
The Bright Futures Scholarship Program is aims at providing merit-based scholarships to diligent and hard-working students who exemplify outstanding academic abilities.
Under former Governor Lawton Chiles, the lottery-funded scholarship program was initially implemented in 1997. Serving as a substantial form of financial aid for students attending colleges and universities in the state of Florida, the Bright Futures program rewards students who excel academically.
Throughout the years, however, new regulations and requirements have been established, ultimately setting higher hurdles for students. Due to the current economic crisis, programs aimed at encouraging postsecondary education, such as the Bright Futures program, have narrowed their scope of recipients. Therefore, student eligibility stands at the forefront of current reforms to the Bright Futures program.
To make matters worse, in the year of 2011, Governor Rick Scott cut Florida’s education budget by $1.3 billion; consequently, some argue that students may be financially and academically penalized by the nation’s economic downturn.
On Wednesday, December 12, 2012, Representative Jimmie Smith sponsored a bill that would require college graduates to reimburse the state if they seek employment outside of Florida. The new regulations would take effect during the 2014-2015 school year.
House Bill 53 explicitly states: “…the program shall serve as an incentive for students to remain and work in the state after graduation by requiring reimbursement of awards received unless the student receives credit toward such reimbursement.”
While some individuals feel that House Bill 53 may rob students of their potential opportunities, others feel that this proposal may strengthen Florida’s workforce. Kate Howick, current Teacher of the Year at Viera High School, comments, “If you’re getting this education through the state of Florida, it’s your civic responsibility to give back. [We are] funding students to get an education to further our staples.”
Conversely, some may argue that the financial well-being of our nation will determine the opportunities that students will be offered. When informed of the bill’s intent, James Brand, a teacher at Viera High School and father to a young daughter, claims that he’s “totally against the bill,” and asks, “Why would somebody work for something they have to pay back if they can have something that they can earn?”
Brand’s wife, Amy O’Reilly, also asserts that if students begin to take out-of-state jobs in response to these changes, she feels that “more students will start to shy away from taking part in the Bright Futures program” altogether. Even more so, she feels that this will lead to “less volunteering” since students would refrain from performing community service if they felt it was no longer necessary.
O’Reilly also rectifies the idea that “most high school students don’t know where they’re going to be working after college whether [or not] it’s going to be in the state of Florida or somewhere else.”
The debate that surfaces, in response to this bill, proves that the reform of education is a controversial issue. Some argue that students should refrain from seeking employment outside of the state of Florida in order to strengthen the state’s workforce; on the other hand, others stress the importance of embracing one’s opportunities, regardless of where those opportunities may bring that individual.
While the debate may thrive, House Bill 53 was withdrawn prior to introduction on Monday, January 07, 2013.