Citing the increased costs of Florida’s online education program, Florida State Rep. Randy Fine has called for an overhaul. As the chairman of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee, he introduced HB5101 to revamp and improve Florida’s virtual education program. Despite strong opposition by some educators, HB5101 passed.
Solving one problem and creating another
School districts in Florida must provide, by law, options in virtual education for students. Due to the dearth of teachers, many school districts have outsourced the online instruction of their courses to Florida Virtual School. Since the demand for online education greatly increased in recent years, the program is hemorrhaging its $280 million budget, Rep. Fine believes.
The franchising of Florida Virtual School, or FVS, became a lifeline for school districts scrambling to locate teachers. Due to the long waiting lists of students who needed to take classes, permission for franchising of FVS was granted. It filled the virtual void, giving students the opportunity to take an online course in order to graduate.
However, Rep. Fine’s bill would stop the franchising of the FVS. Dissent comes in the form of not knowing if revised plans would create more problems. If teachers have to be retrained and if administrators have to find educational materials, including books, would the resolution create the very problem HB5101 intended to solve? In other words, opponents of the bill wonder why the government should try to fix what is not broken.
Moving forward with cautious optimism
Fine acknowledges that HB5101 may not solve all the woes affecting Florida’s online educational system. He wants to jump-start a conversation, however, about how to better the system for all involved minus the skyrocketing costs. He even admits to being willing to forgo changes if any of them are not doable. The idea right now is a meeting of the educated minds to determine what, if anything, can be done to rein in spending without sacrificing the quality of the students’ education.