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Bright Futures Fixed for PEP Students! - Official DoE Memo

Prior to the passage of the Personalized Education Program (PEP) last year, the Home Education Foundation (HEF) lobbyist, Brenda Dickinson, brought to the attention of the Legislature issues that needed to be addressed in the bill. Some of those issues had to do with the way that those statutes would actually be implemented. In the end, those details were not included in the law, leaving much of the logistics for implementation unclear.

Since that time, HEF has worked with school districts, SFOs, and the Department of Education to work out ways for PEP students to have the same flexibilities and opportunities available to Home Education students as stated in statute FL S. 1002.01(2). This statute references 1002.41(3)-(12) which are all the programs and rights afforded to home education students in Florida.

  • The list includes, but is not limited to:

  • extracurricular student activities

  • Dual enrollment programs

  • Bright Futures Scholarship Program

  • Admission to Florida College System Institutions

  • Admission to state universities

  • Testing and evaluation services

HEF, working with the Department of Education, has been successful in helping the FHSAA, the Florida Virtual School, and some colleges for dual enrollment to help them implement the law. However, when bringing our concerns about reporting volunteer hours for Bright Future Scholarships to the Office of Student Financial Assistance over the last 12 months, we were continually told that they were working on a solution.

Today, we were on a call with the districts' Home Education Offices across Florida, initiated by the Department of Education Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice. We heard many reasons why the districts could not treat PEP students in the same manner as home education students, ranging from “there are no assigned program codes for PEP students, like they have for home education students” to “it is not our job.”

Following that call, HEF requested to have a meeting with the Governor’s office to address the issue of reporting volunteer hours for PEP students applying for Bright Futures Scholarships.

Much to our surprise, a call was set up at 4 pm the same day. Not only was the Governor’s Office on the call, but also the Commissioner of Education’s Office, the Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) and the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice.

We expressed our concerns about PEP students having no way to submit their volunteer hours, which might cause them to miss out on Bright Futures Scholarships for this year. HEF had been told in the last few months that the Department was working on a solution, but often it seems, as the old saying goes “that the wheels of government are oiled with epoxy.” But this time, the solution was just slow in coming. HEF was told that by the end of our meeting, a memo would be sent out to all the school districts requiring them to submit the volunteer hours for PEP students applying for Bright Futures Scholarships and giving them directions on how to document and report those hours.

The memo states that OSFA has begun processing the applications and the districts must have the volunteer hours for PEP students, as well as home education students, submitted to OSFA by August 31.

So what does this mean for PEP families?

The memo requiring the districts to accept both PEP and home education students’ volunteer hours for Bright Futures has been sent out, as mentioned above, but it may take a few days for districts to implement.

If you are a parent of a PEP student and have had any issues with your district accepting volunteer hours for Bright Futures, you may contact your district Home Education Office next week to see how they want you to submit those hours.

Going forward, most of the details for implementing the PEP program have been resolved, and it should be much easier for students to have the same flexibility and opportunities as home education students.

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