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!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

LIFE of Florida Evaluation of SB 2516

On Tuesday, April 5, some “alerts” began making the rounds regarding proposed Florida Senate Bill 7202 . One of the emails says, “There is a Legislative Bill being proposed in Tallahassee. SB7207 (sic) would create a program for monitoring and measuring a child’s learning gains from birth through 5 years old. If this bill is passed ALL child care centers and kindergartens would be under the control of the Department of Education. Private education providers – physical private schools, non-traditional private school (like TOPS) and county homeschoolers – could come under the control of the Department of Education. “ The alert urges homeschoolers to “take immediate action… before the Proposed Committee Bill (PCB) is finalized or independent education (private school and home education) as we know it now will no longer exist. The State will control education from birth on. “

The original warning hails for the Home Education Foundation and can be read in its entirety here: Interestingly, none of the “alerts” provide a link to read the entire text of the bill (which can be found here:, and the alert quoted above actually misidentifies the bill number as 7207, rather than 7202.   The bill renumber SB 2156   went to the floor today ( not giving anyone much time to do anything about it anyway) , where some amendments were adopted and some rejected and the whole thing was placed on a 3rd reading, to be debated one more time before final passage.

But a search through the 21000 line bill doesn’t seem to support the contention that “the state will control education from birth on”, nor that “ALL child care centers and kindergartens would be under the control of the Department of Education.” What it does seem to suggest, is that those running private schools, especially those that take state funds, will be under tighter scrutiny and more DOE control. The home based learners who might understandably be concerned about that are those trying to “homeschool” via a private school, or “umbrella” program, rather than independently registered with their counties. Independently registered homeschoolers are not considered “private education providers”.

As a matter of fact, SB 2156 specifically says:

14432 (g) Except as provided by law, the Department of Education
14433 Agency for Workforce Innovation may not impose requirements on a
14434 child care or early childhood education provider that does not
14435 deliver services under the school readiness programs or receive
14436 state or federal funds under this section.

Most of this section of this broad government reorganization bill deals with “early learning coalitions”, specifically those that receive state or federal funds. Florida home educators teaching their children under the state’s Home Education Program neither deliver services under school readiness programs or receive state or federal funds, and so would be exempt from the requirements of the bill.

Learning is for Everyone of Florida encourages families to be educated civic activists, and to fully inform themselves before speaking out on an issue. In this case, there’s a good chance homeschoolers are being recruited to speak out on behalf of private education – especially when the alert specifically, in bold, asterisked type instructs “Do Not Identify Yourself as a Homeschooler – Only Identify Yourself as a Parent Who Supports Private Education.” There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, if that’s what one wishes to do. But there’s no reason to mislead people with dire and unsubstantiated warnings to compel them to act in someone else's interests. And it’s especially unconscionable to urge people to act without providing them the resources they need to be fully informed before they do so.

The Home Education department of the FL DOE confirmed that they don’t deal with VPK (Voluntary Public Kindergarten) issues, and suggests concerned citizens read the text of the bill for themselves, and do one or more of the following to get a better understanding of the intent of the legislation:
You can also find your legislators at  and talk to him or her to get help on further clarification.  A related House Bill CS/HB 5101 was also on the floor today, and failed.  (In a very recent update, HEF lauds House Select Committee on Government Reorganization House Bill PCB H SCRG3  for "protecting your rights" , perhaps because there's little to no mention of education in it.)

As HEF points out, control can be a hidden agenda – but it’s not just the state who might want to control citizens. Private interests often do as well. Home education is governed under a different set of laws from private education, in Florida. While it’s important to protect private school interests, like all educational options, to suggest that every affront to private education – especially private education that takes state or federal money – is an automatic threat to home education, is misleading at best.

Act if so moved, but be an informed activist, and know the facts before you speak out, so that you can speak out effectively and knowledgeably.

Learning is for Everyone
LIFE of Florida

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