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Update on Bills of Interest to Private School and Home Education Students

Updated: May 30

(See here for info on the offices which govern private schools and home education programs.)

Dual Enrollment:

The passage of Senate Bill 1246 on 1-21-2020, in the Senate Education Committee gives me hope that the Legislature will ensure that all students have access to dual enrollment in the future. The ill is sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, Chair of the Appropriation Sub-Committee of Education, therefore, it appears she has the funding worked out with leadership in the Senate.  The Senate blocked the House bill from passing last year, but SB 1246 is a much better bill than last year’s House bill and this year’s House Companion bill 187.

Governor DeSantis and the Richard Corcoran, Commissioner of Education, have both indicated that they support the expansion of the dual enrollment program for all students.  The Commissioner recommended $16 million in the Department of Education proposed budget for 2020.  The analysis of SB 1246 estimates that the cost to provide funding for private school and home education students during the fall and spring terms and all students during the summer term will cost $28.5 million.

SB 1246 states that both public postsecondary and eligible private postsecondary institutions shall receive funding equivalent to the standard tuition rate per credit hour for each dual enrollment course taken by a private school or home education student during the fall and spring terms but this is subject to an annual appropriation. My concern is that if the “subject to an annual appropriation” language remains in the bill it would require lobbying the Legislature every year to make sure the money is in the final budget.

SB 1246 provides a mechanism for colleges and universities to be reimbursed for private and home education students’ tuition, registration fees and instructional materials through the Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program.  If the postsecondary institutions are compensated for tuition and fees, they will be more friendly toward dual enrollment students. The goal is to give students the opportunity to earn an AS, AA, or industry certification before they graduate from high school.  This bill encourages dual enrollment.

The House Bill 187, sponsored by Representative Zika, is significantly different from the SB 1246 and has passed the first committee in the House. The House bill prohibits public postsecondary institutions from charging private schools or private school students tuition and registration fees for dual enrollment, but does not say how those cost will be paid.  Under HB 187 the postsecondary institution would have to absorb the cost.  HB 187 does provide $550,000 to cover the cost of private school student’s instructional materials.

The differences between these bills will have to be worked out in the Subcommittee on Education in the Senate and the Appropriations Committees in both Chambers. Needless to say we would like for SB 1246 to be the bill that passes this Session.

The Gardiner Scholarship

Today in Tallahassee there was Rally to support the K-12 state scholarship programs, including the Gardiner Scholarship.  Both the Governor and the Senate President spoke at the Rally in support of the Gardiner Scholarship Program and the desire to add $42 million to the appropriation in order to serve the 3500 students on the waiting list.  I believe that the House will support the increase because they have consistently supported choice programs for Florida students.

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