We are forwarding this legislative summary from the Florida Home Education Foundation, Brenda Dickinson, President, for your information.
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"The Home Education Foundation Legislative Summary has been long in coming because we have been waiting for the Governor’s action on all the bills affecting home educators passed in the 2022 Legislative Session before reporting the final summary. Remember a bill requires action by the Governor. It can become a law with or without the Governor’s signature or it can be vetoed and fails to become law.
On June 2, the Governor received and signed SB 2524, the big education bill. This bill included a few changes which are of interest to home educators.
Family Empowerment Scholarship for Student with Unique Disabilities (FES-UA)
The number of students who could receive the FES-UA was increased by 6,500 students for the 2022-23. So, in the 2022-2023 school year 26,500 students will be able to benefit from the FES-UA.This Scholarship which was former the Gardiner Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities has been so popular that the Legislature has had to increase the funding every year since its creation in 2014. Parents are thrilled with this scholarship because it puts them in charge of their student’s education. It allows the parent to customize their child’s education and therapies in order to give the child the tools they need to reach their full potential.
The requirement for the Department of Education (DOE) to cross-check the list of scholarship students against the list of students in the school district prior to the release of the funds was removed. The cross-check is required to make sure the state is not funding the same student in two systems. The DOE is still required to cross-check the two lists but will be able to release funding prior to the cross-check and will adjust the payment to the school districts if the scholarship recipient is shown to still be enrolled in a public school. This change would release the state funding to the Scholarship Funding Organization (SFO), like Step Up For Students or AAA Scholarships, sooner and each quarterly payment will be made to the scholarship funding organization no later than September 1, November 1, February 1, and April 1 in 4 equal payments. This change would prevent the delayed payments which many parents experienced in the 2021-2022 school year.
More information on the Family Empowerment Scholarships can be found on the Step Up For Students website: https://www.stepupforstudents.org/ or AAA Scholarship website: https://www.aaascholarships.org/
For basic scholarship amounts for student’s receiving the FES-UA scholarship in 2022-2023 click here: https://www.stepupforstudents.org/wp-content/uploads/Step-Up-For-Students_FES-Unique-Abilities-Scholarship-Amounts.pdf
One of the problems created by the merging of the Gardiner Scholarship into FES-UA and stabilizing the funding through the school district funding is that some of the new FES-UA students without an IEP in the 2021-2022 school year will received about $2000 less than the Gardiner students who qualified in previous school years. The funding for the Gardiner Scholarship was vulnerable since it was a line item in the budget and could be adjusted or eliminated any year. A Gardiner Scholarship student was assigned a straight 253 Matrix regardless of their need for services and was funded at approximately $10,000 depending on the school district in which the student lived and the grade level of the student. Under the FES-UA, the new students would be funded the same as the public school students with an IEP in the school district. School districts receive an average of all students in Matrix Levels 251, 252, and 253 which results in about $2000 less than the Gardiner students that were grandfathered in at their previous level.
The Home Education Foundation has been raising awareness that students who do not have an IEP cannot get an accurate IEP through the school district, even though the FES-UA law requires the school district to provide one. The districts are in a Catch 22 because the federal law requires a “Response to Intervention” (RTI) as part of the IEP. The RTI requires the student to be in a public school classroom for a period of time in order for the teacher to provide prescribed interventions to measure the child’s response. Without that portion of the IEP, a home educated student can only receive a partial IEP, and, therefore, regardless of the level of services needed, the student cannot receive a higher Matrix level. If a child could get an accurate IEP and would qualify for a 254 Matrix, according to the chart, that child could receive approximately twice as much funding. Without an IEP, the FES-UA is discriminatory to students who have never been in a public school who may have a greater need for services.
Currently, the Home Education Foundation is working with other groups to find a way to provide an accurate IEP for home educated students who currently do not have an IEP. We may need your help in the upcoming Session, if you have a FES-UA student to explain the issue to YOUR Florida Representative and Senator.
Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program
SB 2524 states that the Dual Enrollment Scholarship will cover instructional materials and tuition for private school and home education students for the fall, spring and summer terms and the cost to the will be reimbursed by the Department of Education.
The Dual Enrollment Scholarships will be available to public school students for the summer term only and will cover tuition and instructional materials. The instructional materials and tuition for public school students for the fall and spring terms will be reimbursed to the postsecondary institution under the articulation agreement for public school students.
There have been a few postsecondary institutions that did not allow home education students to take classes during the summer of 2022. However, the scholarship would have covered the cost to the institution. If you run into this situation in the future, refer the postsecondary institution to s.1009.30 Fl. St. and make them aware that they will be reimbursed by the DOE. You may need to refer to SB 2524 until the revised statutes signed by the Governor are available online
Bright Futures Scholarships
Governor signed HB 461 on June 27, 2022. This bill amends the Bright Futures Scholarship to allow students to count paid work for service hours beginning in the 2022-23 school year.
The number of hours for both paid work and volunteer service remains at 100 hours for the Academic Scholars Award. However, the number of hours for paid work increases to 100 hrs. for the Medallion Scholars Award and the Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholars Award. The volunteer service hours (unpaid) for the Medallion Scholars Award remains the same at 75 hours and 30 hours for the Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholars Award. The hours must be documented in writing, and the document must be signed by the student, the student’s parent and the representative of the organization for which the student performed the service or work.
The student must, through papers or other presentations, evaluate and reflect on his or her volunteer or paid work experience which may include, but is not limited to, a business or governmental internship, work for a nonprofit community service organization, or activities on behalf of a candidate for public office.
This summer and fall would be a great time to work in a political campaign for the candidate of your choice and earn volunteer hours. Home education students can educate the candidate about the home education laws and how important it is to protect those laws. This is the best way to safeguard the Florida home education laws.
Florida Law Enforcement Academy Scholarship Program
HB 3 created a new scholarship in s.1009.896 Fl. St. for students enrolled in a basic recruit training program at a Florida College System Institution or a school district technical center for the purpose of meeting the minimum qualifications for employment or appointment as a law enforcement officer.
The purpose of the scholarship is to assist in the recruitment of law enforcement officers within the state.
The State Board of Education will develop Rules to administer this section of law. Watch for details from the Florida Office of Student Financial Assistance. https://www.floridastudentfinancialaidsg.org/SAPHome/SAPHome?url=home
Work with School districts
Transfer of a Home Education Program
During the summer and fall of 2021, it was brought to the attention of HEF that in some districts parents were being required to terminate the child’s home education program in the district from which the family moved and submit a Letter of Intent in the county to which the family moved. The terms transfer and terminate were being used interchangeably but they did not mean the same thing. The law requires a parent to terminate the program when the student completes a home education program or returns to a public or private school but is silent on transfer.
HEF could see a potential problem for students in the 11th or 12th grade qualifying for Bright Futures when the new district could not verify that the student had been enrolled for those two years. Also, it would establish a new anniversary date and, in some cases, may require a parent to submit two evaluations in one year.
HEF contacted the Home Education Office in Broward and Palm Beach counties to discuss this issue and explain the difference. After several conversations with the districts and with the Florida Department of Education, we agreed to establish a policy for transferring a home education program. Brenda Dickinson then contacted the home education leaders who had brought this problem to her and worked with Marie-Claire Moreau and Cheryl Trzasko to develop a form to be used by parents to transfer the home education program. These forms are now on Broward and Palm Beach County websites. DOE agreed to send them out to the other school districts to be placed on their websites.
Affidavit of Completion
While we were working on the Transfer Form, we discovered that some school districts had an Affidavit Form on their site for parents to fill out to document completion of a home education program. However, the forms had several mistakes that included out of date laws and statements that the student had completed the requirements for a public school diploma. We brought this to the attention of the counties and the DOE and worked together to create a new form with accurate information.
HEF appreciates the time Marie-Claire and Cheryl spent helping to get these forms corrected and for creating a policy for transferring a home education program."
President, Home Education Foundation