Editor’s Note: The Home Education Foundation works year round with home educators, legislators and other education officials throughout the state to ensure hard-won rights of home education students and parents are preserved, expanded and/or applied correctly. Below are a few of the ways HEF has been at work since our last newsletter.
Bright Futures Scholarships
Brenda Dickinson has talked with people at the Bright Futures Office, the Department of Education (DOE), legislative staff and with Sen. Steven Wise, chair of the Senate PreK -12 Education Committee. Sen. Wise set up a meeting with top officials from DOE on December 8 to discuss this issue. It was agreed that the current statute does not give DOE the authority to approve the community service hours for home education students. It was agreed that legislation is needed. Brenda Dickinson provided suggested language and will work with Sen. Wise to find a way to correct the problem this year.
The good news is that there will be no changes for this year’s seniors. The bad news is that if the language is not passed this year, the policy will be changed for students who graduate in 2012.
The Lee County school district initiated a new practice this summer. They decided that they would terminate the home education program at the end of the year that the student turns 18. This would put some home education students at an unfair disadvantage if they need verification of enrollment in a home education program for Bright Futures Scholarships, for the FHSAA, FLVS and dual enrollment.
After discussion with several district administrators, the district decided not to terminate home education students at age 18. However, through the discussions, HEF discovered a bigger threat – a new student policy which was slated for vote by the school board the following week. HEF had a hard time obtaining a copy of the policy since it was not published online and only a desk copy was available. But with the help of Lisa Schiffli, a home school leader, who drove to the district office, picked up a CD and emailed it to HEF, we were able to read the proposed policy on home education. The proposed policy completely shifted the responsibility from the parent for meeting legal requirements to the Superintendent for ensuring compliance. HEF then called one of the School Board members who set up a conference call with their attorney. HEF urged the district to pull the policy from the agenda and let home schoolers work with them on a new draft. They asked HEF to provide a sample policy from another county that HEF would recommend. The result was the proposed home education policy was pulled from the agenda. At the meeting the school board said they wanted to set up a workgroup to draft a new policy. HEF will continue to monitor the situation and work with Lee County home educators to develop a good policy.
Flagler County instituted a policy similar to Lee County’s age 18 termination (see above). HEF is working with local home education leaders and the district in the same manner as in Lee County. Brenda Dickinson met with representatives from the Department of Education on Dec. 8 to determine if districts had the authority to terminate home education programs when students turn 18. Although the DOE administrators were not attorneys, they said they did not know of a law that even permits a district to terminate a public school student as long as there was no break in attendance. If HEF cannot resolve this issue with the county, then we may have to put language in statute to specify that the district cannot terminate a home education program. We will keep you updated.