Florida State Rep., Manny Diaz, recently sponsored a bill that was cleared by the legislature and could have a profound effect on the future of online education in Florida going forward. The bill, which loosens some of the requirements for schools interested in offering online learning, could open the door for many more private institutions to establish themselves as online educational providers in a state that has been largely under the influence of a small number of online schools for many years now.
The bill, which won its approval on the final day of the legislative process last week after a contentious debate from both sides, will allow private providers of online education to bypass some of the previous requirements for certification. Previously, providers needed to demonstrate “prior, successful experience offering online courses,” but are now eligible to be approved on a trial basis by the Florida Department of Education, while being subject to review after a full operating year.
The new, relaxed criteria for online education providers in Florida open the door for smaller, private schools to assert themselves up as attractive options for more students now, which some education experts fear.
While the new, relaxed criteria for online education providers is something Diaz says he hopes will generate more access for students who perform better in a non-traditional learning environment, others have questioned the perceived privatization of public schooling.
Online learning in Florida for many years now has been dominated by the Florida Virtual School, a public online learning school offering a virtual experience for students both in and outside of Florida. Some have cried that FLVS holds a monopoly on online education in the state, prompting others to question the intention of the newly approved bill.
Not only are more private schools offering online education now eligible for public school funding, but the bill was passed just hours after lawmakers ruled to reduce funding for Florida Virtual School and other providers for each part-time student they enroll. The new changes have already forced FLVS to consider scaling back their offerings.
The bill also allows for the state department to study MOOCs for possible consideration in the future, which is something that I touched on last week. To date, MOOCs have largely been more popular with higher education environments, but a growing movement has recently occurred to implement the MOOC philosophy into the K-12 setting.
So while the debate continues to rage on over the bill’s origins, its effects moving forward will largely be positive. Not only will students have more access to online learning, which continues to grow in popularity, but a new wave of teaching methods may soon be on its way for middle school and high school students.