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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, April 16, 2009

Florida Virtual School Update and Call for Comment

Dear FLVS Supporters,


As you know from recent news reports and from internal updates, the budget passed out of the House removes the support we receive from the class-size reduction amendments. Some state leaders are making the case that we do not need this support because we don’t have four walls; others are claiming that by providing this support to us is akin to double dipping. If we cannot communicate to our state leaders the importance of this funding, the proposed House budget will have a dramatic impact on FLVS operations.


Can you help us by reaching out to state leaders to help them better understand how class-size supports both virtual and traditional classrooms?


The budget passed out of the Senate would limit FLVS to the core courses, removing electives like AP Computer Science, Personal Fitness, and many more. The Senate proposed budget also limits funding for students removing the after school and summer choices for students who want to accelerate or make up credit. If we cannot communicate to our state leaders the importance of these choices for Florida students and parents, the proposed Senate budget will have a dramatic impact on FLVS operations.


Can you help us by reaching out to state leaders to help them better understand the importance of the choice options for elective courses and taking courses in addition to the regular school day?


Please FAX your letters to your local representatives and senators and to as many others as possible. Fax numbers are listed below.


Florida Virtual School- FLVS

http://www.flvs.net

Office: 386.478.4201

Cell: 386-569-1675

FLVS 407-513-3587

fax: 1-888-771-5641

________________________________


To find your local legislators:
http://www.flsenate.gov/Legislators/index.cfm?Members=By+Last+Name

http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx


Click on Image for clearer, enlarged view




Sample Letters:

Below you can find the sample letter for the House and for the Senate:

Sample letter to members of the House of Representatives:

Dear XXXXX,

I’m writing out of concern about the recent budget passed by the House that would cut a substantial portion of Florida Virtual School’s financial support. From what I understand the House, and possibly the Senate, are considering deep cuts for FLVS, including taking away the support the program receives for class-size reduction.

As you may well know, class size support was designed to bring equity to all school districts across the state. When the provision was passed, it was seen as an equalizer and designed to provide equitable funding to all districts. It was also a way for districts to hire enough teachers to keep class sizes at an appropriate level. FLVS is considered a district and has successfully served hundreds of thousands of students over the past decade. The program receives funding from the state using a weighted FTE (full time equivalent) model — just like all districts do. However, there are a couple of distinct differences in FLVS funding formula: 1) it is performance-based: meaning the program is funded only for students who successfully complete the course; and, 2) removes funding for programs not offered at the online program, including Supplemental Academic Instruction, ESE Guarantee, Safe Schools, Transportation, and School Recognition programs.

Today’s funding formula was built using sound, school-finance principles and to bring equity among the school districts. FLVS should not be singled out in today’s budget crisis. The state and subject certified teachers at FLVS work tirelessly to deliver individualized instruction to students and while their classrooms may not have four walls, their students are real and the classrooms exist.

Class-size support is a key element used to determine FLVS’ funding allocation. If the state legislature takes this support away, I’m afraid students will lose.

I implore you to reconsider such drastic actions and consider alternative ways that our state can continue to lead the country in delivering high-quality, online instruction.

Regards,



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Sample letter to Senate:

I’m writing out of concern about the recent budget passed by the Senate that would cut a substantial portion of Florida Virtual School’s financial support. From what I understand the Senate, and possibly the House, are considering deep cuts for FLVS, including taking away the support the program receives for elective courses, courses for acceleration and credit recovery, and for class-size reduction.

Florida Virtual School was started to serve students in rural districts, high minority schools, and low-performing schools. Many of these students would not have access to AP, advanced, honors, and elective courses without FLVS. FLVS has been funded for students who need to take courses after the regular school day and during the summer. Without FLVS many students will not be able to accelerate or make up credits for courses during the summer.

A case for FLVS elective courses from one of the FLVS AP Computer Science instructors:

• 90.1% of FLVS APCS students made a qualifying score (3, 4, or 5) on the 2008 exam compared to the Florida average of only 40.4% (or 36.3% if you remove FLVS students).
• FLVS APCS students averaged 4.20 on the 2008 exam compared to the Florida average of 2.38 (or 2.23 if you remove FLVS students).
• The median score on the 2008 APCS exam for FLVS students was a 5, but only a 1 for Florida as a whole.
• FLVS provided instruction for approximately 8% of the Florida students taking the APCS exam in the state in 2008. We are growing and project to exceed 10% in 2009.

When 60% of the state’s AP Computer Science students fail to make a qualifying score on the APCS exam, it is difficult to understand why the legislature would eliminate the FLVS elective that year after year has a pass rate in excess of 90% with average scores that far exceed the state and national averages. Given our results using a less expensive delivery model, isn’t a 90% return on investment vs. a 36% return what Florida’s taxpayers should expect to be maintained rather than discarded for a significantly lower performance?

The choices FLVS has been able to give to Florida students and parents in courses and the choice of when they take courses, has provided an economical way to ensure that all students have access to quality education with highly qualified instructors.
I implore you to reconsider such drastic actions and consider alternative ways that our state can continue to lead the country in delivering high-quality, online instruction.

Regards,


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