Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, offered a different description: Another way to privatize our public schools.
A day before the final vote on the bill, the two chambers had approved changes to the states school financing formula that would cut the amount of money Florida Virtual and other providers receive for every part-time student they enroll. Representatives from Florida Virtual said the changes would hurt their bottom line and force them to scale back their offerings.
Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, said the back-to-back moves werent a coincidence.
We spend all of this money, time and energy trying to beef up our own virtual platform, Florida Virtual School, and all of a sudden, we are cutting them and allowing outside providers nationwide to come in and take a chunk of the pot of money, Bullard said.
Both the bill and the budget are awaiting final approval from Gov. Rick Scott.
Diaz, who sponsored the proposal and works as an assistant principal in Miami-Dade, has insisted it is not about private business.
What were talking about is access to courses that may be given by Harvard or MIT, he said during a debate on the House floor. What were doing here is not replacing Florida Virtual, by any stretch of the imagination. Were trying to provide more access to our students, especially those students who are advanced and who learn better by this modality.
Diaz points to other provisions in the bill that do nothing for private providers. For example, the bill lets students take courses at virtual schools based in other counties.
If we want to be a leader in education, we have to keep up with the technology and explore these avenues, he said.
Miami Herald staff writer Kathleen McGrory can be reached at kmcgrory@MiamiHerald.com.