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Opening date for Trader Joes and feds investigate Bright Futures

News and updates

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If you’re a regular reader of our blogs (blogs.orlandoweekly.com), you’re getting news updates from around Central Florida daily. In case you’re not keeping up with us online, though, here’s a roundup of news we told you about over the past week.

Opening date for Winter Park Trader Joe’s
Drum roll, please: Orlando’s first Trader Joe’s will open at 131 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, at 8 a.m. on Friday, June 27. According to a press release, the new 12,500 square foot store will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and will carry wine and beer.
Trader Joe’s, if you’re not familiar, is a magical unicorn farm of low-priced, high-quality cheeses and breads and fancy frozen foods. Sort of like Fresh Market at Winn-Dixie prices, if that makes any sense. Or, if you’re a hater, it’s a hellscape of scarf-wrapped hipsters debating the difference between “free range” and “sustainably raised.” Regardless, it’s a big deal for us to get one, because if nothing else, Publix could use a little more competition. – Jessica Bryce Young

Feds investigating Bright Futures scholarships
A few weeks ago, the Federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship Program, a college-scholarship program funded by the lottery. In 2007, according to Politi-Fact, the program served 159,170 students, offering average awards of $2,387 each. Its budget was more than $379 million. That number climbed to $423 million in 2010, and that year the program helped 179,076 students with average awards of $2,364 each. Then Gov. Rick Scott was elected, and under his tenure, the program’s funding has plummeted to a proposed $266 million for the 2014-15 scholarship year and is expected to help 127,573 college-bound kids.

The feds started looking into the program recently because it turns out that most of the highly performing kids the program has helped have been white students, some from affluent families who could have afforded college without the award. The scholarships, it’s important to note, are merit-based, so family income and race do not come into play when awards are made. The problem, some say, is that students who attend school in underprivileged areas are already at a disadvantage – they are usually under more stress than their well-off counterparts, which makes it harder for them to succeed and focus in school, and there’s a notable achievement gap between poor students and affluent ones.

Yet over the years, the state has raised the bar for kids to obtain a Bright Futures scholarship – SAT score requirements have been increased, and according to State Impact Florida, qualifying scores are expected to go up yet again this year, to 1170 on the SAT and 26 on the ACT. In 2011-12, students only had to have scores of 970 and 20, respectively, to qualify. In 2009, State Impact estimates, one in three students qualified for Bright Futures; in 2014-15, that number will likely drop to one in eight. And who’s going to be most aggressively impacted by the increased competitiveness of the program, which has a shrinking pot of money to dole out? More than likely, it will be minority kids in low-income areas – the ones who probably need the scholarships the most. – Erin Sullivan

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