Fla. House panel unanimously backs home education bill

Sullivan portrait

A unanimous Florida House panel approved legislation that would limit requirements school districts can place on homeschoolers.

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan’s bill, HB 731 would also increase homeschoolers’ access to dual enrollment and career education courses.

Sullivan was home-schooled growing up. She said she was inspired to file the bill because of her educational background.

She said superintendents in some school districts are overstepping their authority. The bill comes in response to concerns among parents that districts add hurdles for homeschool registration. That has likely contributed to a decline in homeschooling numbers in some parts of the state, even though statistics show its popularity is growing statewide.

Florida law requires homeschoolers to register with their local school districts. They have to send a signed notice of intent to the school district office with the students’ names, birthdates and addresses. The bill would bar districts from requiring other information from parents. It would also clarify that a home education program is not a school district program.

The statute does not require parents to provide proof of residency and a birth certificate. However, the Miami-Dade School Board adopted a policy requiring parents to provide those documents. Parents have complained of similar practices in other counties, including Broward, Hillsborough and St. Lucie.

The Legislature has considered similar bills in previous years. They have typically stalled in the Senate, where Sen. Dennis Baxley has filed a measure this year. They’ve fared better in the House, where several members have homeschooling experience.

Rep. Ross Spano, R-Riverview, said he taught each of his four children at home at some point in their educational careers.

“I appreciate your tenacity and determination to get this bill passed into law,” he said before the K-12 Innovation Subcommittee approved the bill.