Lady Dhyana Ziegler, a member of the FLVS board of trustees, likened the measures to “a direct and scathing attack on Florida Virtual School funding and course offerings.”
Fresen, a Miami Republican, conceded that the Florida Virtual School would receive less funding per course. But he insisted that the changes would not hurt the school’s bottom line, in part because the state is increasing overall spending on education.
“Nobody is a bigger fan of FLVS and virtual instruction than I am,” Fresen said.
Fresen rejected claims that the policy change was driven by campaign contributions from out-of-state education providers, and said it was intended to increase competition. “For us to have a policy that limits out-of-state providers, in a virtual world that is supposed to be limitless, is counterintuitive,” he said.
The Diaz bill would also require the state to maintain a comprehensive online listing of virtual courses, and allow students to receive credit for MOOCs (massive open online courses) in subjects culminating with a state end-of-course exam.
In the realm of higher education, the House is pushing a proposal that allow one state university to be named Florida’s preeminent research institution based on student performance, retention rates, research spending, national rankings and the size of its endowment, among other factors. The state’s preeminent university would be required to establish a fully online arm.
Last year, the Legislature passed a bill allowing “preeminent” state research universities to raise tuition and fees at differentiated rates each academic year. Gov. Rick Scott vetoed it.
Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, a Miami Republican who chairs the higher education committee, said she expects the proposal to move forward. The online provision, she said, would help strengthen and grow Florida’s top university.
“We want to be able to attract the best and the brightest in the U.S.,” she said. “This would definitely help.”
Miami Herald staff writer Kathleen McGrory can be reached at kmcgrory@ MiamiHerald.com.