JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two of three House committees have passed a plan that would provide voucher-like scholarships to students who are bullied or suffer other abuse at public schools, with the program estimated to reach $40 million in its first year.
The proposed “Hope Scholarship” program (HB 1) is a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes.
As the bill makes its way to the last committee in the coming weeks, News4Jax met a Jacksonville boy who found a better way to learn and a passion for the military when he was forced out of a local public charter school.
Trevor Hoenie, 15, is proud to stand in uniform. The high school sophomore is enrolled in the United States Naval Sea Cadets Corps.
"I believe it's a great program for kids who want to join the military or have thoughts about the military," Trevor said. "I want to join the Navy as a corpsman and, through the Sea Cadets, helps me find that."
Trevor's mother, Tamren Hoenie, loves the program, too.
"His heart is so genuine and Sea Cadets has brought so much out of him. It's brought courage, strength," she said. "It's brought a leadership quality that was in my son and they brought it out."
Trevor may not have found his Navy passion if not for a rough experience at Acclaim Academy, which closed suddenly in 2015. The school had some positives, but for Trevor, it had plenty of challenges.
"Most of the parents thought it was, like, a disciplinary school. So a lot of bad kids were there. And they were rude. They were bullies. Some kids brought drugs to school. Some kids brought weapons to school," Trevor said. "It was not really a good environment."
That's the kind of environment that Corcoran believes children should be protected from, and at least have a way out of.
Trevor's parents helped him enroll in a K-12 online public school called Florida Cyber Charter Academy.
Trevor and his mother believe changing the way he learned made a difference for him and could make an impact on others.
"For them to pass something where kids could have that, I think that's amazing because the kids need to have that. Isn't that our top priority for our children to be smart and educated?" Tamren said. "So whatever that takes is what we need to do."
News4Jax first connected with Hoenies because of their experience with the virtual school and the Sea Cadets. They were more than willing to share their opinion of the Hope Scholarship legislation.
Critics of the bill include teachers unions, which believe it could lead to pay cuts and job losses.