Hits to Florida Virtual School continue this week with the nation’s largest provider of online classes cutting 177 full-time positions.
The cuts to instructional and support staff came Monday, and follow last month’s elimination of 625 part-time teaching positions. The move was necessary, program officials said, after an internal review showed pre-enrollment had dropped 32 percent compared to last summer.
“For the first time in 16 years, we have had to make the painful decision to reduce staff,” Florida Virtual School spokeswoman Tania Clow said late Tuesday in a prepared statement.
Florida Virtual School has 1,725 staff positions remaining. The program served more than 149,000 students in 2011-12.
So why is this happening? Florida Virtual School officials point to a new state funding formula that went into effect last month. Before the change, when students took six courses in their district school and one through Florida Virtual School, the district received its full per-student allotment for that student. Florida Virtual School got another one-sixth of the funding.
Now, the district receives six-sevenths of its allotment and Florida Virtual School receives one-seventh. The more courses a student takes online, the less money the district and Florida Virtual School receive. That has resulted in some school districts preventing students from signing up for Florida Virtual School.
The state Department of Education intervened in April, telling about 10 school districts to stop blocking student access to Florida Virtual School. Last month, it issued another warning to every superintendent in the state.
State Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, chair of the Senate Education Appropriations Committee, told redefinED last week that he stands behind the funding changes, calling them more equitable. But he also said lawmakers likely will revisit the issue during the next legislative session to address enrollment concerns.
Meanwhile, Florida Virtual School officials say they’ll continue serving students at the highest level.
“The entire FLVS family is saddened by the new realities we are facing,” Clow said. “As always the FLVS team will continue to keep our students at the center … helping them be successful in their learning.”