Florida's Hope Scholarship program leverages school choice to enable bullied students to transfer to new schools
NEW YORK, NY – Parents of bullied children often lament the school’s inability or unwillingness to reverse or stem the abuse. In response to this trend, legislators in Florida devised the Hope Scholarship program, which leverages school choice to provide bullied students with the opportunity to transfer schools. Signed into law on March 11, 2018, the Hope Scholarship program is the subject of a new issue brief from Manhattan Institute senior fellow Max Eden. To inform ongoing and potential state-level debates around anti-bullying voucher or tuition tax credit programs, Eden reviews the basic mechanics of the program, the political origin and debate around its passage, and the program’s implementation to date.
Now a few years into its implementation, the Hope Scholarship program has been utilized by students less than legislators anticipated. While the state expected 7,300 students to participate in the first year, only 60 students enrolled after one full semester. That number had increased to 371 students in February of 2020, shortly before Covid-19 forced school closures. Yet while numbers are low, the response from parents and children benefiting from the program suggests the program's potential to grow. Parents reported, for example, greater satisfaction with the safety, engagement, and overall environment of their child's new school as compared to the old one. States looking to provide parents of bullied children with options for safer learning environments should consider acquainting themselves with the Hope Scholarship program's history and successes.