Last year the Florida legislature passed CS/CS/HB 7197, the Digital Learning Now Act. The bill, which passed with support from both sides of the aisle and was signed by Governor Rick Scott on June 12, 2011, expands school choice by increasing digital learning options for students.
Specifically, the legislation authorizes establishment of virtual charter schools, authorizes blended learning courses, and allows K-12 students from anywhere in the state to enroll in Florida Virtual School Full Time (FLVS FT). Previously, students could only enroll in the school if they lived in approved school districts. Also, students used to be required to attend a brick-and-mortar public school before enrolling in FLVS FT – but, the Act removes that restriction.
Now, students in kindergarten, 1st grade, and grades 6-12 can directly enroll in the comprehensive program. Students in grades 2-5 must still meet the “prior public school enrollment” requirement, however.
Parents, students, teachers, supporters of last year’s measure were initially ecstatic about the prospects of the 2012 school year, especially with regard to virtual charter schools. Unfortunately, the promise of expanded education options has not panned out for all Floridians.
Last week the Florida Chapter of the National Coalition for Public School Options (NCPSO) called for the Florida School Boards to follow the law and provide parents with more school choice options. The group, which is made up of parents that support and defend parental access to the best public school options, is calling the Florida School Boards out on the lack of virtual charter school applications that have been approved. In a statement, the Florida Chapter of NCPSO said:
“Since the passage of this law, 33% of all charter school applications have been approved; while in contract only 3 of the 53 applications for virtual charter schools have been approved.”
According to some parents, there are boards which are not even providing a public forum for applications to be considered.
To raise awareness and to move Florida School Boards to make good on what the legislation promises, NCPSO is holding a rally tomorrow, February 22 in Tallahassee.
In a pre-rally teleconference last week Governor Jeb Bush, founder and chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, spoke to teleconference attendees about education reform.
“In monopolies you’re told where you go and how you’re child is going to learn,” said Bush. “And historically we’ve accepted that. But, in Florida and all across the country there are many more options available… Passing laws that make it easier and more transparent for schools to start or expand charter programs is critical.”
The Foundation for Excellence in Education, whose mission is to ignite a movement of education reform state by state, believes in three main principles:
- All children can learn;
- All children should learn at least a year’s worth of knowledge in a year’s time;
- All children will achieve when education is organized around the singular goal of student success
Bush travels the nation advocating broad base reform including each child’s right to learn at his or her own pace and that they achieve maximize learning potential. He noted that digital classrooms are really the way to accomplish the task at hand.
“We should create great learning opportunities recognizing the uniqueness of each child,” the former Governor argued. “Children learn at different paces and in different ways. The beauty of digital learning is that it can be combined with all sorts of software and learning/teaching techniques where you move to a customized learning experience.”
He said that despite Florida being a leader in education reform he said,
“You have to stay engaged. I hope you’ll be able to go to Tallahassee to put a human face and human context around these laws to provide support for the sponsors of these bills that mediate some of the problems that exist and open the system up a bit more… People sometimes in frustration think that their voice cannot be heard, but I respectfully disagree. There are great things you can do to get involved.”
Registration for School Choice Day at the Capitol rally begins at 10:00am. The rally begins at 12:15pm and is free to participate.
For more information on the rally, click here.