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Legislative Update: Week of March 20,2023

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

HB 1, the School Choice bill, passed today in the Senate

Today, the Senate took up House Bill 1 and passed it on the Senate Floor.  The bill will now go to the Governor for his signature.

HB 1 creates a new option for parents to educate their children at home: the “Personalized Education Program” or “PEP”.

The PEP allows parents to use the scholarship funds to purchase curriculum, instructional materials, internet resources, nationally norm-referenced tests and other assessments, classes in a home education instructional program, classes or enrollment in a private school, tutoring services, dual enrollment and more.  Note that if a PEP parent chooses to enroll a student in a publicly funded institution, like FLVS or a district virtual school or public school classes, however, they will have to pay for those classes or services out of the PEP funding, too.

The students who receive the PEP scholarship are not home education students. Whereas home education students register with the Superintendent, PEP students are prohibited from registering in a home education program with the Superintendent. Instead, PEP students must register with a scholarship funding organization (SFO).

Specifics of the PEP program

The key points about the PEP program are as follows:

  1. PEP students register with the SFO from which they receive the PEP scholarship. PEP students do not report any information to the Superintendent and report only to the SFO.

  2. PEP students must take a nationally norm-referenced test and report it to the SFO to be eligible for scholarship renewal. The nationally norm-referenced test is required for PEP students.

  3. PEP students will have to pay for publicly funded classes and services from PEP scholarship funds, even if those services are free to other students.

  4. PEP students may have to follow a school calendar (to be determined).

  5. Parents of PEP students will have to submit a student learning plan annually to the SFO that issues the funding. Details about the learning plan will come from the SFOs themselves.

  6. Priority funding is given to PEP students whose household income does not exceed 185% of the federal poverty level, thus parents may have to submit an Income Tax Return to determine their eligibility for the PEP. After families whose incomes are less than 185% are served, then students whose household income does not exceed 400% of the poverty level will be served.

In the first year, beginning on July 1, 2023, the SFOs are authorized to award 20,000 scholarships for the 2023-2024 school year.  In each subsequent school year, the number of scholarships may increase by 40,000 students.

Applications for the scholarships will open by the end of May, if not sooner.  More information will follow as those details unfold.

HEF was an integral part of the creation of HB 1

HEF has been working endlessly on your behalf to implement the changes you now see in this bill.

We reworked the first version of HB 1 and were instrumental in getting this crucial language woven into the final version:

  1. Separation of the programs for parents who want to direct the education of their child

  2. Registration with the SFO instead of the Superintendent

  3. Prohibited from registering in a home education program

  4. Inclusion of out of state postsecondary institutions with reciprocal agreements

  5. Language to permit school districts to use private licensed professionals’ evaluation reports and plans of care for completing the matrix for a non-public school student without an the IEP

  6. Language to delay the public reporting of the composite nationally norm-referenced test scores for PEP students until 2027-2028.

  7. Made sure the choice navigator is an option and not a requirement.

  8. Language to ensure that a choice navigator cannot oversee or exercise control over the curricula or academic program.

  9. Made sure the parents’ choices of curricula are not limited to only those on an online platform created by the SFO.

  10. Made sure the SFO cannot regulate, exercise control over or require documentation not in statute.

To continue receiving valuable information about these issues and more, please follow and support the work of HEF.

We encourage all families to subscribe to our free newsletter at www.flhef.org and to encourage their friends and groups to subscribe to our newsletter, too.

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