Virtual School Expansion Passes Fla. Senate, Goes To Gov.

TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) — A bill that would require Florida high school students to take some of their courses online has passed in the House which sends the bill next to the Governor’s desk for signing.

In a 27-12 vote, the Senate passed the bill (HB 7197) which expands virtual schools in Florida. The bill mandates starting next year that all high school students take one online course prior to graduation, allows charter schools to offer full-time virtual instruction and expands the number of grades that Florida Virtual School can offer.

It also allows children in kindergarten and first grade to take full-time virtual classes, shifting those dollars away from public schools.

“I wish that the increase to virtual schools would have been more modest,” said Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando.

Some critics of online education have said it weakens the quality of education and removes the ability of brick-and-mortar schools to check on child welfare.

Many Democrats also expressed concern about student access to computers, with the bill favoring students who are more technologically savvy. But bill sponsor Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said it just gives parents more choices.

The estimated fiscal impact of the measure is $6 million, because it could result in the state paying for more students to take virtual classes who previously weren’t able to.

Two Republicans voted against the measure and one Democrat for it. Gov. Rick Scott said earlier this session that he supports this bill, so it is likely to become law.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)


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