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State lawmakers may take district franchises' Florida Virtual School access away

The proposal could dramatically shift the cost of a Florida Virtual course from $50 a student to $220 a student, one principal said.
Screenshot: Florida Virtual School
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The proposal could dramatically shift the cost of a Florida Virtual course from $50 a student to $220 a student, one principal said.

A handful of influential education bills are making their way through the Florida Legislature right now, including one that could change the future of virtual learning in the state.

State lawmakers are considering a proposal that would stop school districts from franchising Florida Virtual School's curriculum.

As part of the House's education budget, districts would be forced to pay more for FLVS Global content — or find other sources for the virtual courses, which are mandatory for all students.

JoAnne Glenn is the Pasco eSchool founder and principal.

She said her school offers 78 courses of its own, and another 152 through Florida Virtual School. The proposal could dramatically shift the cost of a Florida Virtual course from $50 a student to $220 a student, Glenn said.

The school is working on contingency plans, but she said “the prospect of developing the other two-thirds (of the courses) in four months is a little daunting.”

She added that the change would put Pasco and other school districts in a difficult spot.

"We are still required to offer virtual instruction,” she said. “And one of the most cost effective and strongest performing tools in the toolbox is being taken out. That will leave the districts scrambling to put that in place for the upcoming school year."

Proposal author Randy Fine, a Palm Bay Republican representative, said the curriculum is expensive. Not only does the state pay the Florida Virtual School for courses, but districts also get money for their virtual courses.

High school students in Florida must take one virtual class before they can graduate. Right now, these classes are available through Florida Virtual School — and district-run franchises.

Glenn, who opened the Pasco program in 2009, said the proposal might force franchises like hers to pay more for Florida Virtual Global content, or look elsewhere for replacement materials.

“It’s unfair and frustrating as a leader who kind of has that historical perspective to see what amounts to somebody coming along to a traditional school and sort of like the Grinch breaking in and taking all the textbooks out and all the whiteboards and everything else,” she said.

This could lead to districts offering fewer courses, forcing students to the larger — but more crowded — statewide program.

"I have concerns about if more enrollments are funneled to Florida Virtual School who already struggles at times to meet demand, we may see kids who are denied placement or whose academic progress is delayed by being stuck on a waiting list."

The proposal was passed as part of the House's education budget implementing bill, and is now in the Senate.
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Bailey LeFever