Florida DOE: Don’t deter students from Florida Virtual School

After months of reports that some Florida public schools are limiting or denying students access to Florida Virtual School, the state’s chancellor of public schools is putting districts on notice.

Pam Stewart
Pam Stewart

“School districts may not limit student access to courses offered through the FLVS,” Pam Stewart wrote in a recent memo to superintendents. “Since the Florida Legislature passed legislation in 2013 that impacts the funding of school districts and FLVS will receive, it is important that you remember the statutory requirements.”

As redefinED has noted, the new funding formula has left fewer state dollars for both districts and Florida Virtual School and resulted in an unintended consequence: a dramatic drop in enrollment for Florida Virtual School, the nation’s largest provider of online classes. Some districts immediately started steering students away from Florida Virtual School, while at least a few charter schools told students they would have to pay for Florida Virtual School courses.

That’s not acceptable, Stewart wrote. The memo also said districts cannot require students to enroll in district courses in the same subjects as FLVS courses; restrict students to only FLVS courses for electives; or limit the number of FLVS courses students can take.

It’s not clear what the consequences will be if districts engage in such practices. State Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, who led the charge for the funding change, did not respond to several requests for comment in recent weeks.

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BY Sherri Ackerman

Sherri Ackerman is the former associate editor of redefinED. She is a former correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times and reporter for The Tampa Tribune, writing about everything from cops and courts to social services and education. She grew up in Indiana and moved to Tampa as a teenager, graduating from Brandon High School and, later, from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications/news editing. Sherri passed away in March 2016.