By Michael B. Horn
While Florida garners national attention as the site of tax credit scholarships captivating Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, a lesser-known example of choice in education in the state could be turning into a movement.
Florida is one of the homes of “course access” or “course choice” legislation that allows public dollars to follow students to pay for an individual course of their choice. In the case of Florida, that movement started with the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) in 2003, which only receives money when students successfully complete a course. Course access has traditionally been mostly for high school students.
That script may now be flipping in Florida. According to a longtime observer of the Florida education scene, rather than have the school control the educational experiences, as occurs in course access, a subset of parents, particularly at the elementary school level—both public and home-school—are opting to manage their children’s education and customize a mix of public brick-and-mortar school, online school, home school, and even some private school (such as private music lessons) experiences. In other words, a student might take her core academics online at home, come in to the local elementary school for arts and physical education, and then enroll in a music academy for private piano lessons. Or the core classes could be at the public school and extracurricular activities could be delivered online. All of this is possible in Florida because of FLVS’s Flex program, which allows students to attend part-time.
Some key questions at this stage are if this is a trend, will it extend beyond Florida? And what implications for school finance will it have?