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Buying A New Car? You Can Now Donate Some Of The Taxes To Scholarships For Bullied Kids

Marice Cohn Band
Miami Herald
A shopper considers a car at the the Mercedes-Benz dealership at 4250 North State Road 7 in Coconut Creek. A new bullying scholarship is funded by redirecting sales taxes on vehicle purchases.

Car shoppers can now donate a portion of the sales tax they would have paid on vehicle purchases to support scholarships for students who've been bullied.

One of Florida's newest vouchers — called the Hope Scholarship — aims to help public school students who report being victims of bullying or harrassment attend a private school instead. The program was one of outgoing Republican House speaker Richard Corcoran's top priorities during the 2018 legislative session.

Here's how it works: Starting today, when you buy a car in Florida, you can opt to send up to $105 of the required sales taxes to a scholarship-funding organization rather than to the government. The state forfeits that revenue. Florida's main nonprofit organization that doles out vouchers — called Step Up For Students — takes applications from families with children that have been bullied and awards them the money.

According to Step Up For Students, about 220 private schools around the state have signed up to participate.

The scholarship value, which covers tuition, is around $7,000 a year. There's also a separate $750 award that covers transportation for kids who choose to switch from one public school to another rather than attending a private school.

The program is controversial, in part because opponents argue LGBTQ students — who are more likely to be victims of bullying — could end up at religious schools that ban homosexuality or expressions of their gender identity.

Hear more about the Hope Scholarship here, on a recent episode of Sundial.

Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.
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