Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
- Mahatma Ghandi

Welcome to LIFE of Florida!

Our secular and inclusive Florida-wide Informal Education support group acts as a resource center and clearinghouse for homeschoolers, informal learners and alternative educators interested in enriching their learning environments and maximizing their learning opportunities, as well as an advocacy center for Curiosity Driven Learning.

There is no cost to be part of LIFE of Florida -- just join in at our email discussion and announcement list, Florida LIFE, where you can download your membership card -- good for educational discounts throughout FL -- and stay informed and updated on events, issues and resources, and connect with other informal learners throughout the state.

If you're just getting started in homeschooling, be sure to check out our LIFE of Florida Quick Links, our list of Useful Docs, and our enormous collection of resources in the side columns, and visit our Inclusive Homeschool Support Groups page to find a group near you.

If you'd like your regional inclusive support group to be networked with LIFE of Florida, drop us a line with a group description, contact and other relevant information and we'll add you, free of charge, to our directory. All your group members will be automatically considered members of LIFE of Florida, and are entitled to membership cards and all the benefits we offer. Virtual school families are also welcome to enjoy our resources, support and camaraderie.

We're all inclusive and free of charge, and we're here for you!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

From Home Education Foundation: Bright Futures Bill Update

You can view a video of the Bright Futures bill portion of the March 18 DOE meeting , starting at about the 45 measure mark.

I'm grateful for the opportunity for Bright Futures, but think it should be available for all with the same bottom line : a test score. If the DOE feels the test score is too low, then raise it -- for everyone, equally. My thoughts, anyway.

At any rate, HEFs update is below.

Terri Willingham
LIFE of Florida

From Brenda Dickinson, Home Education Foundation

HB 957 was up in Committee on Tuesday and passed unanimously. Please
remember that this bill contains nothing new; it is simply codifying,
in statute, what is already in place for home education students to
qualify for the Bright Futures Scholarships.

Some of you may be wondering why HEF would find sponsors for a Bright
Futures bill in a year when anything that has a fiscal impact is being
cut. Our motivation was not to gain new rights but to preserve those
that we have. It was only after much evaluation, counsel, and anxiety
that we decided to move forward.

The bills that Rep. Kendrick and Sen. Wise are sponsoring do not
change the eligibility requirements for home education students for
the Medallion Scholarship, and they were never intended to do that. I
was very concerned that even bringing the subject up for debate at
this time could cause us to lose one of the ways to qualify for the
Medallion Scholarship. So, I moved forward building support before
getting sponsors for the bill. I got commitments from people who have
the ability to control the bill so that if we ran into any problems,
we could let the bill die on the calendar.

That was the first protection. I then got DOE on board so they would
not be in opposition. I began to craft my argument as to why we
needed this bill so that no one could perceive that this would cost
any more money.

After feeling comfortable that home educated students would not lose
ground, I began to try to get this bill moving. I feel it is
important to pass this bill in order to clarify it in statute for
future Legislatures.

Bright Futures will be changed in the future. We might well have seen
changes this year had the current Senate President not traveled around
the state campaigning in a yellow school bus and telling people he
would protect Bright Futures. Once he is gone, the Legislature will
feel the pressure from many groups. They may do a variety of things
to decrease the cost to the State, but, something will definitely
change. One very real possibility is that the test scores will be
raised for all students. Therefore, I feel that the law needs to have
a subsection which specifically addresses home education students. The
required SAT or ACT scores are not in current law. That language was
revised in 2002 during the school code rewrite, and the authority to
set the test scores was given to the State Board of Education through
the rulemaking process. Knowing that s. 1009.535(1)FS does
specifically state that home education students can qualify with a 970
if they can document their coursework and GPA, I wanted to make sure
the language was there to serve as a place holder.

HEF makes every effort to create equal opportunities for home
education students, not special privileges. This philosophy has
gained many freedoms and privileges for our children. Sometimes I
have been able to argue for more freedom with some trade offs.
However, our goal has always been to maintain independence and
complete freedom from state regulation for those families who choose
not to participate in the Bright Futures scholarships, extracurricular
activities, tuition-free dual enrollment or the Florida Virtual School.

When your child chooses to participate in anything outside your home
for which someone or the State pays, there are additional regulations
to which you must adhere.

Initially in 1997, the DOE was not going to allow home education
students to be included in the Bright Futures Medallion scholarship.
They argued that the test score was too low, and they could not
document the coursework. I got them to include home education
students without documentation if they scored 100 points higher. Once
I was able to sell that concept, I reminded them that dual enrollment
just passed in 1996 and that I was serving on an advisory board to
create a virtual school which may allow home education student to
document the courses in the future. This would allow home education
students the same option as public and private school students have in
the Medallion Scholarship. I was able to convince them on all accounts.

HEF has always tried to represent the interest of parents who choose
to teach their own children through a private school. However, since
there are no separate laws which define nontraditional private
schools, they are a subset of all private schools. Therefore, the laws
that pertain to private schools in general also pertain to the
nontraditional private schools. Private school students taught by
their parents have to document their course work through the private
school, so if home-educated students document through a school, public
or private, FLVS or dual enrollment, they can qualify with the 970
test score.

If HB 957 and SB 2262 pass, the law will preserve and protect both
options for home education student to qualify for a Bright Futures
Medallion Scholarship. These two bills were not filed to win any new
rights; this is not the right time for changes. The bills were filed
to hang on to what we already have. If and when Bright Futures is
changed, we will have a position of strength from which to argue if we
already have the two options in statute.

A lobbyist has to be well connected, understand the political climate
of the day, as well as being an educator, a salesman, and an analyst.
When I believe that the timing is right, I try to seize the moment to
gain a little more ground. In so doing, I hope I can serve all
Florida home educators well.

Working for you,


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