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Update on the work of HEF since May 2019

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

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Most people think that once the Legislative Session has ended the work for HEF has ended. However, our work is never done.

Threatening Legislation

In June, 2019, I traveled to Jacksonville to meet with 3 pediatricians. Two are associated with the University of Florida and the other one is in private practice in Manatee county. These doctors had approached a Senator to sponsor a bill that they believed would protect home educated students from abuse. Since I am known as the voice for home educators in Florida, the Senator’s office called me and ask if I could meet with them to discuss the bill.

The doctors wanted to ensure the safety of home educated children by requiring the names of their parent(s) and all persons over the age of 12 living in the household to be run through the child abuse register prior to being given permission to home educate their children. I listened to their arguments for the bill, then told them that we would fight any legislation that limited the ability of parents to home educate their children.

I also told them that legislators passed a law in 1990 to do the exact same thing. Craig Dickinson, then President of HEF, was able to lessen the impact of the law by negotiating with the Department of Education on the implementation of the law which would require parents to sign an affidavit stating that they had never been convicted of child abuse. In 1994, Brenda was able to get the legislature to repeal that law.

At the end of the meeting I asked if they had a draft of their bill. They gave me a copy of their draft bill written by the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. They said they wanted home education parents to meet the same requirements as public and private school teachers and be cleared through the Department of Children and Families’ child abuse registry.

I studied the draft and it did not do what the pediatricians thought it did. We met again in July in the Senator’s office to discuss the draft bill. I explained to them that their draft bill would require all adults living in the household to have a Level Two (state and federal) criminal background screening, but not require them to be run through the child abuse register. I told them that public and private school teachers are not required to be cleared through the child abuse registry. They told me that I was wrong and asked the Legislative Assistant to contact the Department of Education to confirm whether teachers are cleared through the child abuse registry before being allowed to teach in a public or private school. The FLDOE confirmed what I had told them was correct. I think they dropped the issue, but HEF will continue to monitor the bills filed in this and future Sessions to make sure this does not become a barrier to home education in Florida.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_separator][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Polk County

Also, in June, I was privileged to be on call with the district home education contacts from all over the state. During this call, the Home Education District Contacts from Polk and Duval complained that they did not have enough volunteers for the truancy portfolio review committees. I told them that I might be able to help them recruit volunteers.

On Sept 26 I spoke at Lighthouse Home School Support group and told them of the need for volunteers for this committee. I asked Sylvana Spangler if she would set up a meeting with Polk County Home Education office and home education leaders in Polk County. There has not been a good relationship in this county for a few years so I wanted to try to build these relationships.

On Oct.8, 2019, I met for over 2 ½ hours with Mr. Deron Williams, Carol Trudell and Lisa Street from the Polk County School District Home Education Office and 7 leaders representing 4 home education groups in the district. They stated that they had over 500 people referred to this committee each year. I could not believe that they were accurate with their number, but there was no way to confirm that number. We parted with a few suggestions to help with the Home Education Portfolio Review Committee (HEPRC), and the leaders stated they would try to find volunteers to help. I continued conversations with the volunteers who had served on the HEPRC over the next few weeks, and those discussions revealed more problems than just a lack of volunteers.

Some of the problems were beyond the ability of the Home Education Office to solve. It appears that public schools in Polk, like some other counties, are encouraging and even helping parents of truants and students who may not be able to pass the state assessments to register their children in a home education program. A few parents told the committee that someone at the school filled out their letter of intent.

After doing some research, I discovered that this was also happening in Leon County, and state auditors had seen this happen in Manatee county as well. When a student is “coded” in the district computer as a home education student that student does not bring down the school graduation rate or the school grade if they cannot pass the state assessment. So, basically the district is dumping their problem students into home education.

Also, there were some major issues that needed to be addressed which violated federal law, and the process followed in Polk did not follow state law. It took a while to identify all the issues, put them in writing and seek help from the people in power who could bring about the changes needed. I believe that by the middle of January, the home educators in Polk County will see some much needed change.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_separator][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Florida School Music Association


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This kind of change, like the Polk County issues discussed above, takes months to implement. This kind of work requires relationship building, lots of discussion and a complete understanding of the complexity of the issues. Thus, HEF has been on the job working on your behalf for the last 6 months.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row bg_type=”bg_color” bg_color_value=”rgba(30,115,190,0.07)”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Session starts Jan 14, 2020, and HEF will be in the Capitol working to protect your rights.

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MyCareerShines Training


mycareer

MyCareerShines is the missing piece for home educating parents and provides the student’s very own career guidance counselor. It is totally free thanks to the state of Florida. Don’t miss out on these trainings. Start in middle school with your child and spread the word to every home schooler you know.

Zeal For Learning, Inc.


amazon smile

Zeal For Learning is a 501(c)(3) organization established by 3 of the HEF Board members to help home education students connect to industry. It is our hope that we can begin recruiting and advertising industries who might be willing to advertise their jobs which do not require a 4-year degree.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_separator][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

HEF needs your financial support


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