Civil Rights Group Files Complaint Over Florida Scholarship ProgramMIAMI
A Latino civil rights organization filed a federal complaint against the state’s Bright Futures scholarship program last month, charging the program’s use of college admissions tests discriminates against Latinos and Blacks.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, asking that it require the state to give less weight to SAT and ACT scores.
If the federal department determines the state is violating the Civil Rights Act, it could withhold Title I education funding, which has amounted to more than $1 billion in the last three years.
The scholarships should be awarded by grade-point average, class rank or a combination of those two factors because they are a more accurate assessment of academic achievement, said Victor Viramontes, an attorney with the Latino civil rights group.
High school seniors must earn an SAT score of 1270 or an ACT score of 28 to qualify for a full scholarship to one of Florida’s 10 state universities. An SAT score of 970 and ACT score of 20 are required for a partial scholarship.
The complaint, which was also filed by the group FairTest, charges that Black and Hispanic students are at a disadvantage when taking the college admissions tests, both because of the tests’ cultural bias and the students’ inability to pay for preparation courses that can cost more than $800.
About 44 percent of students taking the tests in Florida are White, yet they make up about 76 percent of the scholarship winners, said Christina Perez of FairTest.
Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan called the racial disparity of college admissions test scores troubling, but said he still believes in using the scores. “This is supposed to be a program that rewards hard work and success,” Brogan says. He also noted that 30 percent of students who qualify for the scholarships also qualify for need-based financial assistance.
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