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RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

01.27.12 Bill Introduced to Help the Florida Virtual School
 
A proposed House of Representatives committee bill could expand enrollment at the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) by eliminating the requirement that students in some grades be in public school first, if they want to attend FLVS full-time.
The bill would go a long way to ending  frustrations expressed by home-schooling parents who want to use FLVS but found some of their children didn’t qualify because they’d never attended public school.
The proposed bill would also allow full-time FLVS students to take part in sports or other extra-curricular activities at their zoned school.
 
 
09.20.11 Florida Board of Ed Wants FLVS to be its own School District

Florida Board of Education members this morning unanimously approved adopting a list of 2012 legislative priorities that include giving Florida Virtual School (FLVS) the authority to operate like a school district, and moving FLVS's governor-appointed board of trustees under the oversight of the state Board of Education.
In addition to becoming a school district, the state board's virtual school bill would:
Authorizes the state board to oversee the performance of Florida Virtual School board of trustees in enforcement of all laws and rules.
Authorizes the state to offer an alternative readiness screening for kindergarten students enrolled in a full time virtual education program.
Allow Florida Virtual School students to participate in extracurricular activities in the school district they would be assigned.
The next step for the board is to find Florida legislators who will sponsor legislation containing these priorities.


06.27.11 Gov. Rick School Signs Bill to Expand Virtual Schools

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law bills that expand and strengthen virtual schools in Florida.
Scott signed into law House Bill 7197. Virtual Education - Expands the Florida Virtual School to offer full-time instruction to K-12 students and part-time for grades 4-12. District virtual schools will be able to offer part-time instruction in grades 9-12 to more students. Charter schools can also now offer online instruction, either as a virtual charter school, or combined with traditional classroom learning.
This was one of several education reform measures Scott signed.
"One of the critical components of creating jobs and turning Florida's economy around is to make sure our state has the best educated workforce, ready to work in our 21st century economy," Governor Scott said. "The legislation I sign today moves our state closer to having world-class schools that graduate students ready for those jobs."


06.02.11 Gov. Scott Signs Bill to Expand Digital Learning

Gov. Rick Scott took the final step in creating an open marketplace for virtual education when he signed the "Digital Learning Now Act."
The measure mandates that every student, starting with incoming students beginning ninth grade in the fall of 2011, will need to take an online course in order to graduate from high school. Additionally, the new law allows creation of online-based charter schools.
Before Scott signed the Digital Learning Now Act into law, there were restrictions on the full-time participation of elementary students in online learning. What's more, Florida students could only take classes directly from Florida Virtual School or its local franchises.
Now, students in K-12 can take online courses. The law also makes it easier for virtual schools to set up in Florida.
Opponents of the measure worry that virtual learning providers would not have to hire teachers with the same qualifications as public schools. Additionally, some Florida school officials fear that the virtual learning providers would not have to teach the same curriculum or meet the same standards as traditional public schools.
Another concern the new law raises is about the fate of the Florida Virtual School (FLVS).
Currently virtual education in Florida is provided by the public Florida Virtual School, which offers middle and high school classes, and six private vendors that districts can contract with. Districts also can create their own virtual programs. Students must go through the district to sign up for the classes. The proposal creates competition for the Florida Virtual School, and at the same time, requires it to offer full-time classes from K-12 and allow students to sign up directly with vendors approved by the state education
department.
Julie Young, founders and CEO of the Florida Virtual Schools, has said that competition will make every online provider better and is
not worry about the impact the Digital Learning Now Act will have on the Florida Virtual School.
"We feel like that every program is different and has its own personality, and parents and students will choose what’s best for them,” Young said, adding she thought the measure "was good."



05.02.11 Digital Learning Now Act Approved by Florida House

The Digital Learning Now Act, which expands school choice by increasing digital learning options for students, was approved by the Florida House of Representatives.
The Digital Learning Act, CS/CS/HB 7197, provides guidelines to school districts and the Department of Education on how to expand digital learning options. It also states that by the 2011-2012 school year, all students entering 9th grade must complete at least one course through online learning as part of the graduation requirement.
Additionally, the legislation states that by the 2014-2015 school year, all statewide end-of-course tests must be administered online.
The Digital Learning Act expands digital learning to charter schools by allowing them to offer blended learning courses to full-time students who receive online instruction and authorizes full-time virtual instruction through a virtual charter school.
 Finally, the legislation directs the Department of Education identify the best strategies and methods to assist school districts in implementing virtual education programs
.


04.21.11 Gov. Scott Backs Bills to Expand Virtual Schools in State

Gov. Rick Scott confirmed his support  for a bill that expands online K-12 education in Florida. According to observers, this is a strong indication the measure will become law this year.
After approval in its final Senate committee stop, both chambers are now poised to vote on bills (SB 1620, HB 7197) that would require all students take an online course before graduating, would allow kindergarten students to take online classes, and allow virtual charter schools to offer full or part-time online classes.
The Florida Virtual School would also be allowed to offer full-time and part-time instruction to more grades and would be able to receive funding directly from the state instead of going through school districts.
But several school district lobbyists said they have major concerns about the bill, which could draw more students away from public schools and into full-time online classes paid for with state funds.
“We are very concerned about this bill and ask that it be delayed,” Seminole County Schools lobbyist Darvin Boothe told the Senate Rules Committee. “We do not feel like districts have had an adequate time to be involved in the process.”
Even as criticisms began to emerge against the bill, a rally hosted by the group “Florida Coalition for Public School Options” brought hundreds of students and parents from across Florida to the Capitol to show their support for virtual school expansion, according to WCTV. .The rally also attracted some of Florida’s most powerful state politicians, such as Gov. Scott, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.



04.05.11 Senate Committee Approves Bil to Expand Virtual Ed. Opportunities
 
A state Senate committee unanimously approved a measure  that would create virtual charter schools, let students sign up for the online courses with or without the school districts' permission and allow companies anywhere in the world provide online courses to children in kindergarten through high school.
SB 1620 expands choices available to school children and their parents by using the technology available in the digital age, Sen. Anitere Flores, the bill's  sponsor told the Palm Beach Post.
"Today is a great day for the future of education in Florida,” said Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future.  “A decade ago, the idea of providing every student in Florida with a customized education was just a dream.  Because of technology and the leadership and vision of the Florida Senate, that dream can become reality.  I look forward to working with the Florida House to align their bill with the Senate version.”
Some school district officials, according to a Palm Beach Post report, worry that virtual learning providers would not have to hire teachers with the same qualifications as public schools. Additionally, school officials fear that the virtual learning providers would not have to teach the same curriculum or meet the same standards as traditional public schools.
Another concern that SB 1620 raises is about the fate of the Florida Virtual School.
Currently virtual education in Florida is provided by the public Florida Virtual School, which offers middle and high school classes, and six private vendors that districts can contract with. Districts also can create their own virtual programs. Students must go through the district to sign up for the classes.
The proposal would require the Florida Virtual School to offer full-time classes from K-12 and allow students to sign up directly with vendors approved by the state education department.
 
 
03.29.11 Parents' Group Endorse Virtual School Legislation

The National Coalition for Public School Options has issued a called to the Florida Legislature to increase access to public virtual education by approving Senate Bill 1620.
The parents' group says Florida could create more options for online learning. SB 1620 would do that, according to the group.
SB 1620 would add statewide virtual providers to the list of public school choices; it would provide state funding for virtual charter schools; it would provide for blended-learning charter schools; and it would allow home-schooled students to  enroll in certain virtual education courses offered in the school district in which they reside.
"The districts do not promote their programs, limit access, and are looking for low cost providers so they can pocket the savings. In Florida's largest district, Miami-Dade, with nearly 400,000 total enrollments, fewer than 100 students are enrolled in their online school program.  In Broward County, a district official recently sent an email notifying parents that he opposes SB 1620 because his program had no interest in competing for enrollments and having to expend the resources necessary to have a competitive program.  Relying on district programs is not a workable model if our focus is on students and the goal is access to quality full time online public schools," according to Wendy Howard, Chairwoman of the Florida Chapter of the National Coalition for Public School Options.
"Open access to numerous options has proven successful in over twenty other states," adds Howard.  "In the past two years, full-time enrollments in Georgia have grown to 6,000 students, South Carolina to 4,500, while in Florida we have seen little growth in the number of enrollments. If Florida is to realize the promise of online learning, it must adopt these effective models that give parents more choices of state approved online schools."


01.07.11 Florida Virtual School Ties Completion Rate to Funding

In most Florida schools, state educational funding follows a student regardless of whether he or she passes or fails a course. But, according to an Education Week report,  at the 97,000-student Florida Virtual School, the money comes through only when the student completes a course with a passing grade.
Under the funding model, which differs from the appropriations-based system that pays for many other state virtual schools, the Florida Virtual School grew from just under 13,000 half-credit completions in 2002-03 to just under 214,000 in 2009-10. But the performance-based funding model means FLVS also has to walk a delicate line between ensuring that its students complete courses at a rate high enough to sustain adequate funding, and maintaining proper standards for its courses, reports Education Week.
The result is a school in which every class interaction is documented, and where every teacher and administrator works on a performance contract that is renewed each year. Teachers are compensated on a base-plus-incentive-pay formula that includes how many students complete their courses and how quickly they do so.
Click here to read the complete report.
 
12.03.10 Virt. Ed. Parents Group Urges Florida to Reform Online Ed. Policies
 Using the Digital Learning Council's report on the state of digital learning in America, Wendy Howard, Chair of the Florida Chapter of the National Coalition for Public School Options, said Florida has fallen short of three of the report's goals. The state, she added, should move quickly to boolster its online learning policies.
Florida does not allow students who were not enrolled in a public school the prior year from enrolling in their school district's virtual public school. According to the Digital Learning Council's report, "10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning," students "who are eligible for public school should be eligible for publicly funded digital learning." The report states to "ensure access to high quality digital content and online courses to students in K-12 at any time in their academic career."
Howard pointed out that Florida law does not permit students to receive an education from an online school program outside of their resident district. The "10 Elements" report, Howard added, addresses such
geographic restrictions in the virtual public school context as "illogical," and recommends states "not restrict access to high quality digital content and online course based on geography, such as school district, county, or state."
Finally, Howard said, Florida law does not allow access to multiple high quality online course providers, nor does it allow for other proven digital learning options, such as virtual charter schools – a model that is thriving in more than  20 states. Parents and students in Florida do not have freedom to choose the online public school or course provider.  Children can only attend the online program sponsored by their resident district, and the state does not give families choice or access to multiple course providers through its state-run program.  The DLN report urges states to give all students "access to multiple high quality providers… including public, private and nonprofit."
"Here in Florida we have been traditionally viewed as a leader in online education, but there are just too many barriers to access and lack of options for families for that to be true.  Sadly, unless changes are made Florida will continue to lag and risks falling further behind many other states," Howard said.
"The time is now for Florida's new leaders to step up, really unleash the potential of digital learning, and give students and families the online education opportunities they demand and deserve," Howard added.  
 
 
The Florida Home Education Foundation was established in 1991 to raise support and provide direct lobbying for home education in the state.HEF also serves to protect exisiting legislation that impacts home schooling and evaluates proposed legislation that could impact home schooling.
In 2010, HEF published an overview called "Everything You Want to Know about Florida's Virtual Education" to help home school parents make decisions about the state's program.
Click here to read the material.
 
 

Archive

HISTORY
 
Florida has the largest state-led virtual school in the United States, the Florida Virtual School (FLVS). The Florida Virtual School was founded in 1997 and was the first state-led virtual school in the United States. In the 2009-2010 school year, the Florida Virtual School served more than 90,000 students.
Florida also has a legislative mandate that requires all school districts to offer full-time virtual programs for grades K-12. Called the "Virtual Instruction Program," the law was approved in 2008 and dramatically altered the online learning landscape by requiring school districts “to make online and distance learning instruction available to full-time virtual students in grades kindergarten through grade 8” by 2009-10. In 2009, an additional  state law amended the statute to require full-time online programs to expand coverage to grades K-12.
The Florida Virtual School recently has faced funding challenges. Per student funding was cut by approximately 10 percent for 2009-2010, to $464 per semester course. The state-led virtual school also lost class-size funding.
Florida has several virtual charter school that offer courses to students throughout the state. Apex, K-12 Inc., Connections Academy, are just a few of the for-profit education providers that operate schools in Florida
.
In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made good on a campaign pledged and signed the "Digital Learning Now Act" into law. T
he measure mandates that every student, starting with incoming students beginning ninth grade in the fall of 2011, will need to take an online course in order to graduate from high school. Additionally, the new law allows creation of online-based charter schools.
Before Scott signed the Digital Learning Now Act into law, there were restrictions on the full-time participation of elementary students in online learning. What's more, Florida students could only take classes directly from Florida Virtual School or its local franchises.
Now, students in K-12 can take online courses. The law also makes it easier for virtual schools to set up in Florida.
In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation into law that expanded the Florida Virtual School to offer full-time instruction to K-12 students and part-time for grades 4-12. District virtual schools will be able to offer part-time instruction in grades 9-12 to more students. Charter schools can also now offer online instruction, either as a virtual charter school, or combined with traditional classroom learning.
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