Bill to make home schooling easier in Florida flies through first committee

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan presents her home schooling bill to the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee on Jan. 9, 2017. [The Florida Channel]
Rep. Jennifer Sullivan presents her home schooling bill to the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee on Jan. 9, 2017. [The Florida Channel]
Published January 9

On its first full day of session, the Florida House took steps to make it easier for families to home school their children while still taking advantage of some public education services.

With no opposition from the public or members, the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee quickly advanced HB 731, which would:

  • Have districts automatically accept home-schooling requests without requiring added paperwork.
  • Allow parents to determine the content of student work portfolios for their children.
  • Have school districts make industrial certification programs available to home-schooled students.
  • Add protections from truancy prosecution for home-schooling parents.

"It's important that we recognize the freedoms and the liberties that home-schooled families have when they choose that form of education," Sullivan explained.

"I think what's important here is since the chapter on home schooling was created, when that first came to be, we haven't really made any changes because they weren't necessary at the time. But we've seen that superintendents are going outside of statute in areas they're claiming the statute doesn't specifically speak to, and it's really intruding on the on the privacy of these parents. And so what this bill seeks to do is protect their privacy."

A similar bill struggled to move in the past, because of its $1 million price tag to provide instructional materials to home-schooled children. This year, Sullivan removed the fiscal components from the legislation.

She noted that she would have more potentially controversial education bills coming in future meetings, as said she'd welcome similar unanimous support for those, too.

One of her proposals (HB 1035) would extend personalized education programs, also allowing for different interpretations of the state's course grading system. She's also a cosponsor of HB 311, to create alternative pathways to a standard high school diploma.

Sullivan is among a group of House members who have pushed for expanding educational options for children beyond the traditional district model. Such measures are a key component of this year's leadership priority education bills.

— Tallahassee bureau reporter Emily Mahoney contributed.

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