Author Archive | Livi Stanford

Florida Legislature passes major homeschooling bill

On the last day of their annual legislative session, Florida lawmakers unanimously passed the most significant legislation to impact homeschool families in years.

House bill 731 would rein in school districts’ inquiries to parents who start home education programs. The legislation came in response to concerns among parents that districts were adding hurdles for homeschool registration. That likely contributed to a decline in homeschooling in some districts, even though state statistics show its popularity is growing statewide.

Home education advocates proposed similar legislation multiple times, but it did not pass until this year. The bill now heads to Gov. Rick Scott. Continue Reading →


Mastery-based learning proposal fails in Florida Legislature

Bills expanding a state initiative to help students learn at their own pace fell by the wayside late in Florida’s legislative session.

The House approved its version of the “mastery-based learning” bill. But Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, was stymied in multiple attempts to advance the proposal in the Senate.

In a last-ditch effort, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, attached a version of the proposal to SB 88 — a bill creating a high school financial literacy course. The amendment also would have made the financial literacy course optional, watering down a longtime priority of Senate Education Chairman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange. Continue Reading →


An advocate for choice, from the school board to the state House

Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville

Editor’s note: This profile is part of a series on Florida legislators who help shape education issues. See previous entries herehere and here.  

Jason Fischer got involved in local school board politics when he and his wife observed the lack of a variety of school options for their children in Duval County.

“We were disappointed about the (performance) of the school system and its future and started getting involved in education,” said Fischer in an interview.

Fischer, now a member of the state House of Representatives, met with other parents and students struggling in the school system. He began to eye a run for the Duval County School Board, where he won a seat in 2012.

Duval County shares its borders with the city of Jacksonville, Fla. It’s one of the largest school districts in the state. But affluent parents often flock to its southern neighbor, St. Johns County, which is home to Florida’s highest-scoring school district.

Fischer wanted to make Duval a more attractive option. But to do that, he would have to work against the grain.

“I am proud to be part of the movement to empower parents and raise student achievement,” he said.

Fischer served four years on the Duval County School Board until 2016, when he ran for the state House. Colleagues and others who worked with Fischer say he helped pave the way for more school choice options.

Indeed, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, an education reform nonprofit in Duval County, published a report in 2014 on the growth of school choice options. The report found that in 2009 there were nine charter schools in Duval County. By the 2014-15 school year, there were 34.  A big batch of those was approved in December 2012, right after Fischer took office. Continue Reading →


Fla. Senate panel passes home education legislation, revives personalized learning plan

The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed legislation that would rein in district inquiries to parents who register home education programs.

The bill by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, comes in response to concerns among parents that districts add hurdles for homeschool registration. That has likely contributed to a decline in homeschooling in some districts, even though state statistics show its popularity is growing statewide.

Florida law requires homeschoolers to register with their local school districts. They must send a signed notice of intent to the school district superintendent 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. Continue Reading →


Fla. House approves personalized learning bill

The Florida House approved legislation this afternoon that would expand a state initiative to give students choice and help them learn at their own pace.

The bill would open a personalized learning pilot program to every district in the state and give participating school districts more flexibility to decide how they award course credit to middle and high schoolers.

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora and sponsor of HB 1035, said previously it is intended to promote a shift toward “mastery-based learning” in public schools. The idea is that students should advance to higher levels of learning based on their mastery of a topic, rather than the amount of time they spend in class. And instruction should cater to individual students’ needs.

The bill passed 101-13, with opposition from some Democrats.

Continue Reading →


Homeschool advocates go to bat for non-traditional private schools

Provisions in a wide-ranging education bill moving through the Florida Senate provoked fears among home education advocates. But they may prove to be a short-lived glitch.

Right now, as worded, the Senate’s rewrite of HB 7055 would prevent parents from using private tutors, as well as certain non-traditional private schools, to satisfy school attendance requirements.

However, a key lawmaker facilitating negotiations in the late stages of the legislative session said Tuesday that she intends to fix the issue. She said her goal is to eliminate out-dated provisions of state law, not to restrict homeschooling.

“We are going to amend the bill to take care of any of the questions that were asked by the parents of the homeschoolers,” Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, told the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday. “We’ll do that on the floor.” Continue Reading →


Homeschooling taught Florida state Rep. the value of choice

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, confers with Florida House Speaker-Designate Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah.

Editor’s note: This profile is part of a series on Florida legislators who help shape education issues. See previous entries herehere and here.  

Sitting with her mother trying to read the word “star,” Jennifer Sullivan stumbled. She could pronounce the “st” but couldn’t put the whole word together.

Reading was a challenge for the 5-year-old at the time.

A homeschooled student, Sullivan shared her frustrations with her mother, breaking down in tears.

Her mother decided that she did not need to learn to read right away. Instead, she shifted her focus to other areas where she excelled. For a time, Patricia Sullivan focused on teaching her daughter different life skills, values and character strengths. She immersed her daughter in other subjects, such as biology, by taking her outside to study caterpillars.

Then, at age 8, reading suddenly clicked for Jennifer, and she delved into books. Now a state representative, she continues to love reading to this day. Continue Reading →


State Rep. helps students choose a path to a better future

Students from Allapattah Flats K-8 in St. Lucie attend the capital to meet with their representative, Rep. Larry Lee, D-Port St. Lucie, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

Michael Ferreira gravitated toward Rep. Larry Lee’s story.

The fact that Lee failed the first grade and overcome obstacles to go on to college, the NFL, the insurance business and the Florida House intrigued him.

“I was not always the model student,” Lee, D-Port St. Lucie, recalled. “I never had any serious disciplinary problems, but I did have academic challenges.”

Lee asked students at Allapattah Flats K-8, including Michael, to participate in a program he created called Journey to Success. The goal: Help them overcome the barriers that trauma and poverty had placed in their paths.

Michael jumped at the chance. Continue Reading →