Almost no one is taking advantage of Florida's 'COVID-19 bullying' private school grants

More than a month into the school year, fewer than 100 students have received school vouchers that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration backed as a way for children to escape what the state labeled “COVID-19 harassment.”

As of Monday, 90 students had been awarded “COVID-related” Hope Scholarship vouchers, according to Step Up for Students, a nonprofit organization that helps administer the Hope Scholarship program. A spokesman for the organization told The News Service of Florida that only two students had used the vouchers to enroll in a private school.

The State Board of Education approved an emergency rule on Aug. 6, days before the start of the academic year in most of Florida, that was triggered by DeSantis’ July 30 executive order aimed at preventing school districts from requiring students to wear masks. The emergency rule expanded the state’s Hope Scholarship program to allow parents who object to masks or other coronavirus safety measures to send their children to other public or private schools.

The Hope Scholarship program was originally intended to help bullied students change schools. Step Up for Students has received 263 voucher applications that cited reasons related to COVID-19. Of those applications, 127 were incomplete, 42 were conditionally eligible and four were pending processing.

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