Advocate Calls Farmworker Scholarship Program Well-meaning But Short-sighted

Feb 28, 2017

The children of farmworkers could get a chance to go to college for free under a state lawmaker’s plan. But one advocate is worried the requirements will put the scholarship out of reach for many.

Credit MHP Salud / http://mhpsalud.org/who-we-serve/farmworkers-in-the-united-states/

Republican Senator Anitere Flores is behind the plan, which requires students to be legal residents and have a 90% attendance record. Jeannie Economos with the Farm Workers Association of Florida says any effort to promote higher education is welcome. But she says the rules are unrealistic, especially for students in migrant families, which can move throughout the state and the country during a given school year.

"They might travel up and down the East Coast harvesting crops in other states. And might even travel all the way out to the West Coast and do apples for example, in Oregon and Washington," Economos said.

And she says the challenges don’t end with the unconventional work schedule.

“In the current anti-immigrant climate there’s a lot of fear among families. And there’s some issues with people afraid to go to school or take their kids to school,” Economos said. “We hear cases of kids being bullied or even beaten up or harassed and verbally abused based on their immigrant status and/or looking Hispanic or looking foreign. So that could be a problem for kids having a 90% attendance rate.”

Economos estimates as many as half of the state’s farmworkers are undocumented, and she wants lawmakers to make the scholarship available to them as well. Senator Flores’ plan is part of a sweeping education bill which is ready for a floor vote ahead of the Legislative Session.