TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The 47,000 students bullied in Florida public schools could soon be eligible for scholarships to private charter schools.
However, public school advocates say it would take money away from public schools because it's funded by taxpayer dollars.
Public school advocates are calling House Speaker Richard Corcoran a bully on fliers sent to House Republicans. They're angry he's holding state funding for public schools hostage unless his controversial education package is approved.
"Tying the budget to unvetted policy is unheard of," said Sue Woltanski with Common Abuse Florida.
A major part of the package, ironically, is legislation that would fund scholarships for bullied students to go to private schools.
"That gives parents a choice and especially for the kids that are most vulnerable at our schools," said Representative Michael Bileca.
Seventh grade student Hailey Vadi was bullied at her public school. She told House members she's been more successful at her new private school.
"I made more friends there and nobody judged me," she explained.
The scholarship would be funded from sales taxes on automobile purchases. Motorists would have the option to choose if the sales tax from their purchase went to the program or into general revenue.
Sponsors anticipate generating $40 million for the scholarship. Opponents fear it could take as much as $367 million from general revenue.
Public school advocates say the bill isn't about bullying; it's about taking money from public schools and giving it to private schools.
"They continue to come up with funding schemes that go into private pockets but my childrens' title one school, we struggle all the time to make ends meet," said Rich Templin with Florida AFLICIO.
Public school advocates say there's no guarantee a student will be better protected from bullying at private schools, especially since the schools aren't required to report bullying like public schools.
In 2015 more than 123,000 high school students in the state reported being bullied over a 12-month period, suggesting most incidents go unreported.