Florida homeschoolers soon could get access to free virtual education
Pasco County mom Wendy Howard and her daughter, Jessica, have been working for more than a year to change Florida law so all students -- not just those who have spent some seat time in a public school -- can use the state's free virtual education program.
Last year the duo convinced some local lawmakers of their position, but didn't get any traction in Tallahassee. This year, they've made some big headway. Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, and Rep. Eric Fresen, R-Miami, have filed legislation (HB 1173 / SB 2262) that would give the Howards and all the families like them what they seek.
"We are very excited about the bills," Wendy Howard told the Gradebook. "We've got a lot of strong leadership up there this year that get it."
Howard, who has taken statewide what started as a Tampa Bay area petition drive, said plenty of Florida families would benefit from the proposal to let kids into the public virtual program without attending a public school first.
"There are a lot of people who can never meet this one-year public requirement," she said. "If we don't stand up for these kids, who will?"
The state Department of Education has cautioned lawmakers to go slowly in expanding online programs. Cost has been one big factor. Howard said she's optimistic about the bills' chances, nonetheless.
Visit the Gradebook on Saturday for a full interview with parent activist Wendy Howard.