Law & Courts

Fla. E-Learning Mandate Puts Financial Strain on Districts

By Marc Valero — September 20, 2011 3 min read

A new state law that requires Florida high school students to take a class online is causing cash-strapped school districts to spend millions on new computers.

The new law requires incoming freshmen, beginning this school year, to take at least one course online prior to graduation.

School districts say that to meet this new requirement they will have to spend money on new computer labs so that students who do not have access to the Internet at home will be able to take online courses.

“Overall, I don’t think it is a bad idea for students because as they go forward there is a lot of online learning that is going to be expected of them,” said Highlands County school board member J. Ned Hancock. “Whether it is at the college level or the employment level, it seems like there are more and more Webinars and different continuing education done over the Internet and [that] are computer-based.”

That part of it is good; the bad part is the state hasn’t done anything to help local districts purchase more computers, he said.

Some students are going to find it hard to fit everything—such as homework or a missed assignment—that is required into one class period just in the computer lab, Mr. Hancock said.

He asked: How do you make that up if you don’t have access to a computer?

A significant amount of the money the district is looking to get from the federal Race to the Top grant is slated for technology.

But the 11,952-student district has not done everything to qualify for it yet, he said.

“If that happens to not work out, then we are going to be in that much worse position,” Mr. Hancock said.

Bad Budget Timing?

The state legislature had good intentions when it stipulated the online requirement, he said.

But with the current funding structure, now is not a good time to implement some of these programs in such a short time frame, Mr. Hancock said.

Avon Park High School freshman guidance counselor Ashley Ridenour said a letter has been sent to all ninth graders in the Highlands County schools about the new requirement.

“We want to make them aware of it as soon as possible, so they can go ahead and get it out of the way, so they don’t have to worry about it in their senior year,” she said.

There are concerns about whether some students will be good online learners, but the state is trying to prepare students for college where they will most likely have some online courses, Ms. Ridenour said.

During tutoring sessions after school on Wednesdays and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, students will have the Internet available to them so they can do their virtual class and also receive help from the tutors, she said.

Highlands County is not alone with concerns about computers and lab space.

Most schools already have computer labs, said Chris McGuire, principal of Broward Virtual School, which is part of the 257,000-student Broward County school district. But the new law could force districts to buy additional computers and set up more labs for students who can only take an online class while on campus.

Pam McAuley, manager of instructional programs at the 195,000-student Hillsborough County School District, said the new requirement will place a burden on already crowded computer lab space.

“As we stand right now, there are no funds to add more computers or lab space,” Ms. McAuley said.

“We are going to have to get creative site by site and see what kind of lab space they have.”

This shift from requiring districts to offer online courses as an option, to mandating that students take an online course prior to graduation, is a huge policy change, educators said.

In Broward County, which educators said offers one of the best virtual education programs in the state, one study reported that, at most, only 20 percent of high school seniors graduate having taken an online course.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2011. McClatchy Tribune Information Services
A version of this article appeared in the September 21, 2011 edition of Education Week as E-Learning Rule Adds Tech. Costs for Fla. Districts

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Interdisciplinary STEAM Specialist
Smyrna, Georgia
St. Benedict's Episcopal School
Interdisciplinary STEAM Specialist
Smyrna, Georgia
St. Benedict's Episcopal School
Arizona School Data Analyst - (AZVA)
Arizona, United States
K12 Inc.
Software Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

Law & Courts U.S. Supreme Court Is Asked to Take Up Harvard's Consideration of Race in Admissions
Lower courts rejected claims by Students for Fair Admissions that the Harvard policies discriminate against Asian-American applicants.
3 min read
Rowers paddle along the Charles River past the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass. on March 7, 2017.
Rowers paddle along the Charles River past the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass.
Charles Krupa/AP
Law & Courts Accused Texas School Shooter to Remain at State Hospital
Doctors say the student accused of fatally shooting 10 people at a Texas high school in 2018 remains incompetent to stand trial.
1 min read
Santa Fe High School freshman, Jai Gillard writes messages on each of the 10 crosses representing victims in front the school in Santa Fe, Texas on May 21, 2018.
Santa Fe High School freshman, Jai Gillard writes messages on each of the 10 crosses representing victims in front the school in Santa Fe, Texas on May 21, 2018.
Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP
Law & Courts School District Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Scope of Transgender Student Rights
A Virginia district appeals a ruling in the case involving Gavin Grimm's effort to use a restroom consistent with his gender identity.
3 min read
Transgender student Gavin Grimm challenged a policy of the Gloucester County, Va., school board that barred him from using the men's restroom. The school board has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.
Transgender student Gavin Grimm challenged a policy of the Gloucester County, Va., school board that barred him from using the men's restroom. The school board has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.
Kristen Zeis/The Daily Press via AP
Law & Courts 3 Years Later, Parkland School Shooting Trial Still in Limbo
It's been more than 1,000 days since a gunman with an AR-15 rifle burst into a Florida high school, killed 17 people, and wounded 17 others.
4 min read
Magaly Newcomb, right, comforts her daughter Haley Newcomb, 14, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at a memorial outside the school in Parkland, Fla on Feb. 18, 2018. It’s been more than 1,000 days since a gunman with an AR-15 rifle burst into the school, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others.
Magaly Newcomb, right, comforts her daughter Haley Newcomb, 14, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at a memorial outside the school in Parkland, Fla on Feb. 18, 2018. It’s been more than 1,000 days since a gunman with an AR-15 rifle burst into the school, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others.
Gerald Herbert/AP