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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Budget cuts could lead to fewer options at Florida Virtual



Florida lawmakers have made no secret of their support for online schooling as an educational choice for the state's students.

They're even considering requiring all high school students to take at least one virtual course to qualify for a diploma.

So it's somewhat baffling to leaders of the Florida Virtual School that the Legislature is considering cuts to the school's per-student funding of 7.84 percent (in the House) or 9.95 percent (in the Senate). In combination with reductions from the past two years, that would total nearly 20 percent in cuts.

Florida Virtual does not receive local tax money or federal money such as Title I grants, which support education for students living in poverty.

"If these cuts go through for next year, it's really going to cripple the ability of Florida Virtual School to help those students," chief policy officer Holly Sagues told the Gradebook. What's more, she added, "We may have to remove courses, especially those below a certain number of students."

Smaller classes, perhaps including Advanced Placement, might disappear or find themselves increased in size, which would limit teachers' time to spend with individual students.

Adding to the injury, the Senate also has proposed to limit the length of time a student may take to complete a virtual course. Florida Virtual has prided itself on its mastery model, in which students can finish a course quickly if they understand it or take up to nine weeks past a semester to understand things if they don't get it at first.

The Senate would cap the length of a course at 20 weeks. Sagues suggested that would hurt students while possibly opening the state to the cost of paying for retakes that currently aren't necessary. She said Florida Virtual and its supporters are fighting the proposed changes.

Florida Virtual is a national model with great successes, she said. "The one big shining star in the Florida education system ... is now in a position where it may be at risk."


[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:55am]


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