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State Scholarships

Newest Information on State Scholarships Per both HSLDA and FLHEF presentations at the 2023 FPEA Homeschool Conference, the details for how these scholarships (aka state funding for education outside public schools or for transportation to another school than the zoned public school) will work are still being ironed out and more corrections and/or clarifications are likely as they iron them out. Stay tuned for more details. 1. The FES:UA (Family Empowerment Scholarship: Unique Abilities, previously known as the Gardiner) FES:UA (for students with certain special needs) mostly stays the same. One change is that a Choice Navigator will be an expense covered by the scholarship after July 1st. So scholarship funds can be used to pay for consultations to help figure out how to homeschool, appropriate programs for your students, etc. from evaluators, adjunct professors, and others (check the list of qualifications). No one foresees legislators trying to tighten the rules for students with special needs as that would be a politically bad move. 2. FES:EO (Family Empowerment Scholarship: Educational Options) The FES:EO will still be used for private school students only. 3. FTC (Florida Tax Credit Scholarship) and PEP The FTC will be used for those who want to accept government funds and still homeschool (or use private schools that meet their qualifications including offering approved year-end testing) using the new PEP--this is a privately funding scholarship, funded by businesses that want a corporate income tax write-off to fund education. This is so no one can claim that homeschoolers are defunding public schools. The application process for the FES:EO and FTC should start the same. At least one of Scholarship Funding Organizations (Step Up for Students or AAA Scholarships) has sent out notices that families are approved for the funds, but Brenda Dickinson has asked them to change the wording on their emails as that's not accurate. No one can be funded for the new PEP program until after July 1st when it takes effect under Florida law. No one should count on getting the PEP funding, nor terminate their home education program by turning in a Letter of Termination nor pulling out of a school because they think they are definitely getting PEP funding until notified clearly after July 1st. Part of being notified will be setting up a PEP (Personalized Education Program)--though more details will be coming. The Scholarship Funding Organizations will be meeting to figure out a process of approving materials to be purchased with scholarship funds. HSLDA has a list of specific types of materials and expenses that have been agreed upon as being things that scholarship funding can be spent on. Curriculum, Choice Navigators (consultants to help you figure out homeschooling), public school and post-secondary school classes and programs (FLVS, dual enrollment, local public school programs), and classes including ones that Brenda calls Home Education Instructional Programs (co-ops and tutoring and online educational programs, etc.) will be covered. I'll try to share the full HSLDA list later if I can. =========== Student Learning Plans Via the school choice bill that passed a few weeks ago, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship will give government funding to parents that can be used for a new homeschooling option called the Personalized Education Program (or PEP). The scholarship will be open for 20,000 more students this coming school year and 40,000 more after that, and so on. The scholarship will offer serious money that will vary depending on the school district and grade level of the student--per figures on previous funding for this scholarship (it wasn't previously open for homeschooling but it isn't a new scholarship), the money will be more than $6000 but could get around $8000. The law regarding this takes effect July 1st, 2023. Signups have started even though they can't approve anyone until after July 1. Why? Because the scholarship is supposed to give 1st priority to those with an income under 185% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and a 2nd priority to those with an income under 400% of the FPG. The organizations want families to get applications in place so they can get in line to see who will be approved even though all the application pieces aren't fully in place yet. To sign up go to either: https://www.aaascholarships.org/parents/florida/ or https://www.stepupforstudents.org/scholarships/personalized-education-program/ To get first or second priority under the scholarship, income must be proven. There is a third category with the lowest priority (least likely to get the scholarship at this point in time) for those who don't prove their income or who earn more than 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. (AAA is one of two scholarship funding organizations; the other is Step Up for Students.) Parents can start the application process but won't be able to finalize all the parts of yet. There are limited openings. 1. The application process will require proving family income to get 1st or 2nd priority. 2. The process will include swearing to spend the funds on the student's education and agreeing to have your child be in a PEP if you want to use the funds for homeschooling. This means that after your child is approved for this funding, you'll have to end your child's current education (withdraw from a school OR send a Letter of Termination with an evaluation to end home education if currently homeschooling). 3. You'll have to file a Student Learning Plan and agree to end the public school's school year with either public school testing or testing from an approved list on the Florida Dept of Education's site. (Some have been saying that for the first year, any testing can be used, but that's not correct.) The two scholarship funding organizations will have, based on what I've been told by their leadership, different approaches to setting up a Student Learning Plan. Here's what I know so far about the two options and their Student Learning Plan (and you'd have to pick one or the other organization to apply to): ---- AAA will use a form based on one that I and this evaluators' support group designed. We tried, as much as we could, to make it keep the freedom that home education programs have. Their Student Learning Plan form will first ask the parent to indicate that they understand that taking on this money means that the parent agrees to update their Student Learning Plan as needed, agrees to pay for FLVS Flex, public school, dual enrollment, and other public school programs that are free to home education students, and will submit test scores at the end of the year. (These are all requirements of the law. Those getting funding from the state through a scholarship must pay for programs that are free to home education and other students because those on the scholarships are already being funded by the state; no one is supposed to receive funding from the state twice.). It asks questions about record-keeping such as the format you'll use for keeping a Log of Educational Activities. So you could choose from options like keeping a calendar or planner with notes, or a computer program's reports, or lesson plans from a publisher, or keeping a social media account, or.... It will list a variety of options and end with a final option of "other" to allow for any other possibility that wasn't included in the choices. It will ask whether titles of reading materials will be kept in the Log of Educational Activities or in a separate list (or there's an "other" option). It will ask about the sorts of samples of materials used by or created by the student that the parent plans to keep--they could be worksheets, or photos of projects, or screenshots of programs or apps used, or... (and there's an "other" option). It will ask about your specific plan and give a variety of options for doing that. You could just name a curriculum, or name a homeschooling method (classical homeschooling, school-at-home, unschooling, or use a list of educational goals, or indicate that the student with take FLVS or dual enrollment or other classes, or state that you'll be using tutors, ... or indicate that you'll use a co-op or other program with a homeschool support group, or something else. It will ask if you plan to have your student test at a public school OR will arrange private testing using one of the tests approved by the FL Dept of Education since testing is required. It will ask the parent to give details (such as naming the curriculum choice or co-op or classes or such) and identify any goods or services needed to address the academic needs of the student. This is legally required as it is where parents will specify what they want to spend the money on. ---- For both organizations, the Student Learning Plan is to be editable by the parent at any time. So if a curriculum or such isn't working for the child or if the parent wants to use the money for something else or wants to change the testing choice or so on, the plan can be changed. This is how the parent sets what the money can be spent on. Per HSLDA: If the parent changes substantially what they teach, it would be a good idea to revise the Student Learning Plan. ---- Step Up for Students (SUFS) has a different approach to setting up the Student Learning Plan. SUFS will have (at least for this first year) a two-phase process of setting up a Student Learning Plan. First, the parent will choose up to 4 educational priorities (and are given a list that will include all subject areas and other choices) or will choose up to 4 social emotional learning priorities (including items such as responsibility or integrity). In phase two, parents will be shown sets of suggested links based on the goals and grade level of the student (and perhaps other information?) that suggest items that Step Up for Students believes might help the student with the learning goals chosen. The parent can buy things with scholarship funds using those links, though there should be a route for choosing other curricula or other materials or resources to pay for with scholarship funding. Note that there is an organization going after their plan since SEL has been banned in schools in Florida, so this plan may change. ---- See our page on Homeschool Information for more details on the PEP. ---- HSLDA also noted that there are states who have had such funding for students for a few years and pointed out that those states are considering tightening their requirements. At least two have had legislation proposed to make the same requirements for their funded students apply to the rest of the homeschoolers who have not taken funding; this is the big fear with this sort of funding, that funding will gradually tighten and might affect us all. Those home educating who choose not to take government funding have no changes to their requirements. But it is something to keep an eye on for the future. If anyone lives in Tallahassee or nearby and wants to volunteer to help, Brenda Dickinson needs help as she is at retirement age and is ready to step down. See FLHEF.org to offer to help. Donations are also welcome. Cheryl Trzasko

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