Florida did not violate anti-discrimination laws by using standardized test scores to award Bright Futures scholarships, the U.S. Department of Education has found.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights had been investigating the Bright Futures program, which awards college scholarships based on grade point average and SAT or ACT scores. The probe was based on allegations that the eligibility criteria had the effect of discriminating against Hispanic and African-American students.
But federal authorities found “insufficient evidence of a legal violation” and concluded the investigation Wednesday, according to a memo addressed to Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and obtained by the Herald/Times.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who opposed the probe, said he was glad federal authorities had ended the “baseless investigation.”
“The Bright Futures program has helped thousands of Florida’s top students finance their college educations and given them the foundation for successful careers,” Rubio said in a statement.
Dropping the requirement and funding scholarships for all eligible students would cost Florida too much money, federal authorities wrote in the report. And dropping the requirement and increasing other academic eligibility requirement, such as the minimum GPA, might also eliminate significant portions of black and Hispanic students.
Responding to Wednesday’s report, Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House, stressed that every decision about Bright Futures had been made “entirely on setting priorities in the face of budgetary constraints, not with any regard to race or with any intent to include or exclude students of any particular background as this federal investigation suggested.”
Rubio said he hoped future decisions about the program would be handled at the state and local level.
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