Rep. Bracy Davis Refiles Ocoee Scholarship, Business Loans Bill
Editor in Chief
Friday, November 3, 2023
If passed, HB 249 would provide some financial aid to private HBCUs like Bethune-Cookman University, home of the Marching Wildcats.
Ahead of the regular 2024 legislative session, starting January 9, Ocoee state Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis filed House Bill 249, aka the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Riots Loans and Scholarships bill. It advanced Thursday to the Postsecondary Education & Workforce Subcommittee.
HB 249 is a slightly revised version of the business loans and scholarships bill the Democratic lawmaker and fellow Democrat, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, attempted to pass during the 2023 session. That one died in committee. Thompson is the senate sponsor of the new bill as well. Like the prior bill, HB 249 provides for the Black Business Loan Program to “prioritize any applications for black business enterprises in areas directly impacted by the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Riots.”
And like the prior bill, the provisions for the Randolph Bracy Ocoee Scholarship Program (named for Bracy Davis’ brother, the former state senator who secured state funds in 2021 for the program) remain largely the same — with one key expansion.
Funded through a $305,000 trust fund, administered by the Department of Education, the program will still provide annual financial assistance for 50 eligible students who are either direct descendants of survivors of the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Massacre or African-American students living in Ocoee now. Each student will receive $6,100 to help offset in-state tuition and registration fees at one of Florida’s public state colleges or universities or trade schools.
New with HB 249 is that scholarship monies can also be used at Florida's three private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs): Bethune-Cookman University, Florida Memorial College and Edward Waters University. A change from last year's bill: Scholarship funds cannot be used for schools out-of-state.
“Our goal is to honor the memory of those affected by ensuring their descendants have every opportunity to succeed. That is why we are actively working on expanding the Ocoee Scholarship Program,” Bracy Davis said in a statement texted to VoxPopuli.
“The original intent was to allow descendants of the Ocoee Massacre and African-American residents of Ocoee to pursue higher education without the burden of financial barriers at any public state of Florida college or university system school or trade center.
“But our vision does not stop there,” Bracy Davis continued. “We recognize the intrinsic value and unique educational environments provided by private institutions, particularly our historically Black colleges and universities. The expansion of the Ocoee Scholarship Program is a testament to our commitment to education, equity, and justice. It is an acknowledgment that while we cannot change the past, we can forge a future of inclusivity and opportunity.”