The 2012 Legislative Session ended on March 9. At that time we knew which bills had passed the Legislature, but not which bills would be signed or vetoed by the Governor. Most of the bills hich will affect home educators were signed by April 28. The next step is to see how the bills will be interpreted by the agencies or organizations tasked with implementing the new laws. HEF has been working with the agencies/organizations to determine the impact to home educated students.
Here is a snap shot in time of the way the new laws will affect you.
1. University of Florida Spring/Summer Pilot Program
The bill clarifies that students enrolled in the Spring/Summer University of Florida pilot program who are eligible for a Bright Futures scholarship are eligible to receive the scholarship award during the summer term. The student may not receive a Bright Futures Scholarship for more than two semesters in any Fiscal Year.
2. Excess Credit Hour Surcharge
The bill requires students who entered into a state university or college for the first time in the 2009-2010 or 2010-11 academic year and who maintain continuous enrollment to pay 50 percent of tuition for excess credit hours above 120 percent of the credit hours required for their degree. For the 2011-12 academic year students will be required to pay an excess hour surcharge equal to 100% of the tuition rate for each credit hour in excess of 115 percent of the credit hours required for their degree. For the academic year of 2012-13 and thereafter, students will be required to pay an excess hour surcharge equal to 100 percent of the tuition rate for each credit hour in excess of 110 percent of the credit hours required for their degree. Students enrolling in courses beyond those required for their degree will be assessed these increased fees in an effort to encourage them to complete the necessary degree requirements in a timely manner.
NOTE: The state is trying to strongly encourage students to declare a degree program by the completion of 30 credit hours to avoid taking excess hours which do not count toward a degree. The disincentive for taking excess credit hours is to charge the student the full cost of the credit hours.
Currently, the State of Florida pays a substantial portion of the cost of tuition and a Florida resident pays only a portion of the actual cost. The new law will be phased in over the next couple of years in an effort to avoid penalizing those already in the system. Students that exceed the specified maximum number of credit hours will be required to pay a surcharge on top of all the other normal tuition and fees for Florida residents. The surcharge in the 2011-12 academic year at the 50% rate was $103.32 per credit hour.
Hours taken prior to graduation from high school are not calculated in this number.
3. Length of Time to Accept Initial Bright Future's Scholarship Award
The bill shortens the length of time that a student is eligible to accept an initial Bright Futures Scholarship award from 3 years to 2 years after high school graduation for a student graduating from high school in the 2012-13 academic year and thereafter. A student graduating from high school in the 2012-13 academic year is eligible to accept a renewal award for 5 years following high school graduation.
For a student who enlists in the United States Armed Forces immediately after completion of high school, the 2-year eligibility period for his or her initial award and the 5-year renewal period shall begin upon the date of separation from active duty. For a student who is receiving a Florida Bright Futures Scholarship award and discontinues his or her education to enlist in the United States Armed Forces, the remainder of his or her 5-year renewal period shall commence upon the date of separation from active duty. If a course of study is not completed after 5 academic years, an exception of 1 year to the renewal timeframe may be granted due to a verifiable illness or other documented emergency pursuant to s.1009.40(1)(b)4 F.S.
4. Annual Submission of the FAFSA
The bill clarifies that students are required to annually submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for initial award eligibility as well as renewal award eligibility.
5. Bright Futures award per credit hour or credit hour equivalent for the 2012-2013 academic year shall be as follows:
Florida Academic Scholars
|2-Year Institutions||$ 61|
|Upper-Division Programs at Florida Colleges||$ 69|
|Career/Technical Centers||$ 50|
|4-Year Institutions||$ 75|
|2-Year Institutions||$ 61|
|Upper-Division Programs at Florida Colleges||$ 51|
|Career/Technical Centers||$ 38|
Gold Seal Vocational Scholars
|Career Certificate Program||$ 38|
|Applied Technology Diploma Program||$ 38|
|Technical Degree Education Program||$ 47|
Academic Top Scholars
6. Home Education Community Service hours.
Language which was inadvertently left out of the bill last year to give DOE the authority to approve Bright Futures Community Service hours for the Medallion Scholarship Award was included this year. Last year it was only added to the Academic Bright Futures Scholarship. However, DOE continued to approve Community Service hours for home educated students for the 2011-12 academic year as they had in the past, but now they have explicit legal authority to do it.
The process for reporting BF Community Service hours requires home education students to submit the hours through the student’s home education contact at the school district where he or she is registered as a home-educated student for approval by the FDOE. You can find the specific requirements of the Bright Futures home education community service hours on the DOE Office of Student Financial Assistance website: http://www.floridastudentfinancialaid.org/ssfad/bf/homepac.htm
For the 2012-13 academic year the Legislature gave state and community colleges the authority to raise tuition 5%
Some state and community colleges are reporting that dual enrollment courses for home education students will be limited for the 2012-13 academic year. There is nothing in the new law that requires them to limit home education students. However, the law does require that colleges have a home education articulation agreement. Each college has their own Board of Trustees and the Boards may be trying to make the articulation agreements for home education students the same as for public and private school students. The articulation agreements are negotiated documents, therefore, home education leaders in the service areas of each community/state college need to work with the Board staff to set policies that better suit the needs of home educated students.
The reason that school districts limit the dual enrollment courses for public school students in their articulation agreements is that the school district does not want to give up the funding for those students. That is not true of home education students. HEF in the past has worked to educate the staff at FLDOE about the needs of home education students. Currently, HEF is encouraging FLDOE to develop a technical assistance paper to inform the Florida college officials about the laws and federal regulations pertaining to home educated students. However, it is also important for home education leaders to educate their college officials about the rights and laws pertaining to home education students. This is essential part of maintaining our freedoms.
The new language is underlined:
- Requires each postsecondary institution to enter into a home education articulation agreement with each home education student seeking enrollment in a dual enrollment course and [with] the student's parent. The home education articulation agreement shall include, at a minimum:
- A delineation of courses and programs available to dually enrolled home education students. Courses and programs may be added, revised, or deleted at any time by the postsecondary institution.
- The initial and continued eligibility requirements for home education student participation, not to exceed those required of other dually enrolled students.
- The student's responsibilities for providing his or her own instructional materials and transportation.
- A copy of the statement on transfer guarantees developed by the Department of Education under subsection (15).
(15) The Department of Education shall develop a statement on transfer guarantees to inform students and their parents, prior to enrollment in a dual enrollment course, of the potential for the dual enrollment course to articulate as an elective or a general education course into a postsecondary education certificate or degree program. The statement shall be provided to each district school superintendent, who shall include the statement in the information provided to all secondary students and their parents as required pursuant to this subsection. The statement may also include additional information, including, but not limited to, dual enrollment options, guarantees, privileges, and responsibilities.
- Requires providers and schools to implement pre and post assessments for students in the voluntary prekindergarten program.
- Removes prior public school enrollment requirement for students entering grades 1-5.
- Allows private schools to offer & administer statewide assessments at the private school at no cost to the school and provides the conditions for administration.
- Authorizes DOE to make site visits at any time to a private school that has received a notice of noncompliance or a notice or proposed action within the previous 2 years.
- Requires the FHSAA to adopt bylaws relating to transfers. The bylaws shall allow the student to be eligible in the school to which the student has transferred during the school year if the transfer is made by a deadline established by the FHSAA, which may not be prior to the date authorized for the beginning of practice for the sport. These transfers shall be allowed pursuant to the district school board policies in the case of transfer to a public school or pursuant to the private school policies in the case of transfer to a private school.
Substantial change for home education student athletes
HB 1403 mandates that students be allowed to transfer during the school year. At this time, it is unclear how this will affect home education students, but the FHSAA has attempted to treat home education students equal to students in public and private schools. However, the transfer provision will be difficult to create equity since home education students don’t actually attend the school.
The new law has also prompted a change in the FHSAA definition of “season.” Prior to the passage of HB 1403, HEF had argued that the “Craig Dickinson Law” did not define season and that when the law was passed in 1996, the FHSAA by-laws did not define “season” as first day of practice. However, the new mid-year transfer provision creates a challenge for the FHSAA in attempting to curb recruiting. Additionally, the new law establishes the deadline for eligibility to participate in a sport following a transfer as the “beginning of practice” for the sport. Therefore, to be consistent, the new deadline to register a home education student’s intent to participate in a sport will be prior to the beginning of practice, not the first game.
Here is the FHSAA’s interpretation of the new law as it relates to home education students:
“HB1403 references first day of the sports season as it relates to eligibility. This day is defined as first day of practice for the sport's season. As a result of this statutory requirement, the date for "registering intent" for home educated students is the first day of practice for each sport's season.”
See the entire letter to the District Administrators at: www.flhef.org
These portions of the bill will be of interest to Home Education Cooperatives and Non-traditional private schools:
- Mandates that the FHSAA may not deny or discourage interscholastic competition between its member schools and non-FHSAA member Florida schools, including members of another athletic governing organization, and may not take any retributory or discriminatory action against any of its member schools that participate in interscholastic competition with non-FHSAA member Florida schools.
- Prohibits the FHSAA from unreasonably withholding its approval of an application to become an affiliate member of the National Federation of State High School Associations submitted by any other organization that governs interscholastic athletic competition in this state
- Requires the FHSAA to adopt bylaws relating to recruiting violations and sanctions of the school, coaches or adult representatives. Penalties may require the coach to reimburse the school for assessed fines and/or may suspend a coach from participating in or attending a school sponsored athletic activity.
- Establishes certain requirements and prohibitions relating to investigations; determinations of eligibility; provides requirements relating to appeals.
- Beginning with students initially entering a Florida College System institution or state university in 2014-2015 and thereafter, shall only be required to complete 30 semester credit hours (rather than the previously required 36 credit hours) in general education courses in the subject areas of communication, mathematics, social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences and demonstration of competency in a foreign language pursuant to s.1007.262 F.S..
Comment: Prior to this change, some students were having difficulties in completely all their pre-requisites because they were only allowed to take 24 hours of electives. They will not be able to take 30 credit hours of electives.
- To improve articulation and reduce excess credit hours, beginning with students initially entering a Florida College System institution in 2013-2014 and thereafter, the articulation agreement must require each student who is seeking an associate in arts degree to indicate a baccalaureate degree program offered by an institution of interest by the time the student earns 30 semester hours. The institution in which the student is enrolled shall inform the student of the prerequisites for the baccalaureate degree program offered by an institution of interest.
Nothing in this bill impacts home educated students, but we will keep working to open grades K-5 to part-time enrollment just as home educated students now have in FLVS in grades 6 -12.
Establishes Florida Virtual Campus at the postsecondary level to provide access to online student & library support services & to serve as statewide resource & clearinghouse for technology-based public postsecondary education distance learning courses & degree programs.