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!

Friday, March 7, 2008

From Home Education Foundation: Update on Bright Futures Scholarships for Homeschoolers

Additional LIFE notes at bottom....

From: PJH
Date: Fri, Mar 7, 2008 at 11:13 AM
Subject: [HEF_Info] update on Bright Futures scholarships

Bright Futures Scholarships have been under attack from several different groups over the last couple of years. There have been proposals to decouple Bright Futures from tuition and make it a specific amount; some wanted to lower the amount given to all and thereby providing additional funds for needs-based scholarships or for students who go into specific majors. Thus far, with Senate President Pruitt at the helm, no changes will be made this year.

Even under these unfavorable circumstances, HEF has determined that the Bright Futures Medallion scholarship eligibility law for home education students needs to be clarified. Everything had been working fine until this summer when a home schooling mother tried to force the Bright Futures Office to make an exception for her daughter. The mother had done an exceptional job of educating her daughter, graduated the 14 year old, and enrolled the child into a community college. However, her daughter failed to meet either of the eligibility requirements for the Medallion scholarship. She could neither document the 15 required courses from a Florida school to qualify with a 970 SAT or a 20 ACT score, nor did she make the required 1070 SAT score to qualify without the documented credits and GPA. Yet, the mother demanded that the state give her child a Bright Futures scholarship. The Bright Futures Office did everything they could to help the student, but the mother had closed too many doors. After the Bright Futures Office sent her a letter declaring the child ineligible, the mother took the matter further and threatened a lawsuit. The DOE General Counsel's Office got involved and determined that home education students are only eligible if they score a 1070 on the SAT or 23 on the ACT. This interpretation stripped home-educated students of one option currently available to them.

In January, and unaware this ruling occurred in late fall, I called the Bright Futures Office to confirm some information for an article I was writing. Even though I was involved in the above mentioned case, I had not yet received the final decision from DOE. Fortunately, I found out in time to file legislation to address the fact that one of the ways home education students can qualify for Bright Futures had been eliminated. Knowing that the legislative intent is still in statute in the 1997 transition language, I consulted with legislative staffers who were present during the 2002 school code re-write to see if they interpreted the law as I did. After getting agreement from them, I contacted the DOE legal counsel to ask if they could reconsider their ruling based on the additional information I provided to them. They took some time getting back to me, and since the deadline for filing a bill was only two days away, I determined that if the law was confusing to parents and to the DOE legal staff, then, regardless of what the DOE decided, it needed to be clarified.

I was able to find sponsors in the House and Senate on very short notice and get the language into bill drafting. Between the bill drafting deadline and the day the bill was filed, I continued to work with the DOE Bright Futures Office and the DOE General Counsel's Office to clarify the bill language. Through this process, the DOE legal staff came to understand the ways that home education students can document the required 15 college-prep courses. We were able to jointly write language that anyone can understand, and the new language was filed. You can read the bills HB 957 and SB 2262 at Online Sunshine .

Yesterday, I heard back from the DOE attorney working with me on this issue. She stated that they had reviewed the current language in s. 1009.535(1) F.S. in light of the additional information and have determined that they agree with my interpretation. They made this decision based on three facts: (1) home education students can take college-preparatory coursework through the Florida Virtual School, dual enrollment and Florida public or private high schools that will provide a weighted GPA in the 15 college-preparatory courses, (2) that home education students are not excluded because this section of law refers to "students", and (3) in the initial eligibility requirements in s. 1009.531, home education students are excluded from having to have a diploma. Fortunately, students who were planning to qualify with a 970 SAT/20 ACT score this year will still be able to do so, even if the bill does not pass.

HEF is weighing the current legislative climate. I do think this language needs to be clarified, but I am not sure this is the time to do it. We will keep you posted regarding the bills' progression.

From the Capitol, working on your behalf,

Brenda Dickinson
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LIFE Note: Current requirements can be found here:

http://www.floridastudentfinancialaid.org/ssfad/bf/fmsrequire.htm

And visit http://tinyurl.com/22xh5t to read HB 957 and

http://tinyurl.com/37z96c to read SB 2262

Both bills are identical, and this seems to be the text in question, regarding students eligible for Bright Futures:

(b) Has attended a home education program according to s.1002.41 at least during grades 11 and 12 and has attained a score of at least 100 points higher than the score identified by rules of the State Board of Education under paragraph (a) on the combined verbal and quantitative parts of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the Scholastic Assessment Test, or the recentered Scholastic Assessment Test of the College Entrance Examination, or an equivalent score on the ACT Assessment Program; or has attended a home education program according to s. 1002.41 at least during grades 11 and 12, has documented successful completion of a college-preparatory curriculum as outlined in paragraph (a) through a Florida public school, a private school registered with the Department of Education, or dual enrollment pursuant to s. 1007.271, and has attained at least the score identified by rules of the State Board of Education under paragraph (a) on the combined verbal and quantitative parts of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the Scholastic Assessment Test, or the recentered Scholastic Assessment Test of the College Entrance Examination, or an equivalent score on the ACT Assessment Program;

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Visit http://www.floridastudentfinancialaid.org/ssfad/bf/newsrenew.htm for additional scholarship updates. We will post updates here as they become available.

LIFE of Florida

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