HB 7069 lifts Florida’s last remaining virtual education restrictions

Livi Stanford

Gov. Rick Scott signed a major education bill last week that, in addition to equalizing funding for Florida charter schools, also removes the state’s last remaining restrictions on virtual education eligibility for elementary school students.

HB 7069 also eliminates geographic boundaries for virtual education and creates statewide open enrollment for virtual charter schools.

Florida Virtual School functions like a statewide school district, enrolling students in online classes full and part-time.

Under existing laws, students in second through fifth grades can’t enroll in virtual courses part-time. Children in middle and high school can only take certain part-time courses if they were enrolled in public schools the previous years.

Nearly 1,000 students who were enrolled in FLVS Flex Elementary, which offers part-time courses, were at risk of losing their eligibility status for the program in the coming 2017-18 school year if the governor had not signed the bill, according to FLVS.

This is a game changer for Sherri Johnson-Ojeda, who has benefited from having her son enrolled in FLVS. Brandon, 9, suffers from diabetes and was struggling in a public school in Lake County, Fla. Johnson-Ojeda decided to homeschool Branden and enrolled him in FLVS Flex.

Before the bill passed, Brandon’s enrollment for next school year remained in question because of the state law restricting eligibility, requiring him to have attended a public school last year.

Ojeda breathed a sigh of relief after the bill was signed.

“If [Scott] did not sign it, I would have to create my own curriculum,” to teach my son, she said. “Writing and creating my own curriculum is not an easy thing to do. For those families who struggle to balance their children’s medical needs and educational needs, this is a huge win.”

Holly Sagues, executive director of FLVS governmental affairs, said FLVS is grateful the governor supported legislation that “allows access to virtual education for all students.”

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