Family Learning Center

This interactive component of The Resource Room, is designed to enrich families by providing them with valuable educational resources. This initiative is offered in partnership with the Urban League of Greater Miami, Miami Dade Public Schools, Nova Southeastern University, The College Board and other community agencies.

Courses are offered throughout the year. Topics may include:

  • SAT Test Prep classes
  • Computer Training
  • Financial Aid
  • Parent workshop

Parent Resources

The Florida School Choice Resource Center was created to help the Florida Department of Education achieve the two main goals of Florida’s Voluntary Public School Choice Program:

  • Restore, sustain and expand the level of high-quality public school choice programs throughout Florida
  • Expand and spread our successful public school choice programs throughout Florida

FSCRC achieves these goals by providing the following services to the community:

  • Workshops, technical assistance, hands-on training, and professional growth opportunities for district administrators, public school administrators, teachers, parent and community liaisons and specialists. Parents are also educated on public school choice and parental involvement.
  • Assistance to school districts and school choice stakeholders
  • Collection and distribution public school choice information, resources and best practices
  • The Parent Advisory Council and the Florida Public School Choice Consortium for networking opportunities for public school choice.

Florida, with its diverse population and geographic locations, is known for offering a variety of public school choice options for families. The following public school choice options have been developed to meet the needs of Florida’s diverse student body:

Career Academies

Career academies are schools that take a school-to-work approach to education. Career academies differ from traditional academic and vocational education because they prepare high school students for both college and careers. They combine academic and occupational courses based on a career theme such as business, health or electronics. They weave the themes into academic curricula that qualify students for admission to four-year colleges or universities. [TOP]

Career academies generally target students who are at risk of dropping out of school or are not achieving their full academic potential. Supporters of career academies believe that offering academic as well as technical courses in a smaller learning environment will result in academic improvement, a higher graduation rate and the ability to successfully move on to college or work after high school. Studies have found that students in career academies perform better in high school and are more likely to continue into post secondary education, compared to similar students in the same schools. Today, approximately 24% of high schools in the country have a career academy.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that are state-funded, but privately operated. Charter schools are, by definition, flexible and have the freedom to set their own rules on such issues as curriculum, teaching style, personnel, and discipline. Charter schools, often operated by parents, teachers, administrators or community members, can offer student-directed learning environments or alternative programs that meet the needs of students. A “charter” is the performance contract or agreement between the school and sponsor that establishes the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor, usually a state or local school board, to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. Charters are usually granted for three to five years and may be revoked if the school fails to achieve the educational outcomes set forth in their charter. [TOP]

The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for increased accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that approves them, the parents who choose them, and the public that funds them. In Florida, the state reimburses charter schools for the average statewide per-student expenditure so they receive as much public funding as regular public schools.

Controlled Open Enrollment

Controlled open enrollment, as defined in Florida statute, means that school districts may make student school assignments using parents’ indicated preferential school choice as a significant factor. Controlled open enrollment emphasizes the rights of families to choose among existing public schools. Instead of being assigned to a public school by a district, students may choose a school from anywhere within the district or, if not geographically feasible, from within established zones or boundaries within the district. School districts that establish controlled open enrollment zones allow families to choose a public school within their zone as long as it maintains an ethnic and racial balance at that school. These new zones override preexisting neighborhood school assignments and give parents the choice of schools within their designated zone. [TOP]

Corporate Income Tax Credit Scholarship

The Corporate Income Tax Credit Scholarship Program provides scholarships for eligible students to attend a participating private school or another public school. Established in 2001, this statewide program provides income tax credits for corporations that donate money to nonprofit scholarship-funding organizations (SFOs) that provide school scholarships. The scholarships are in the amount of $3,500 and are given strictly based on need to students with limited financial resources that qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. The scholarships can be used to pay for tuition to attend an eligible private school or to pay for transportation to attend another public school.

To qualify, students must be entering Kindergarten or must have attended a public school in Florida the previous year. Students must continue to qualify for the free or reduced lunch program in order to receive the scholarship from year to year. Students who are already enrolled in a private school are not eligible. To apply for the Corporate Income Tax Credit Scholarship, contact one of the Scholarship Funding Organizations in your area in the following link: http://www.floridaschoolchoice.org/PDF/SFOmap.pdf [TOP]

Home Education

Home schooling is the education of children under the supervision of parents instead of school teachers. Home Education is a parent-directed education alternative. The trend has grown steadily over the past several decades. Though states used to have mandatory school-attendance laws, each state eventually made home schooling legal. State law generally requires parents to notify the state or local education agency of their intent to home school. More than half the states require some kind of evaluation, whether it requires testing of students, portfolio evaluations or a teacher evaluation. Only some states have education or testing requirements for parents and require submission of a curriculum. The federal government does not regulate home schooling, instead, home schooling is regulated differently in each state or school district. Michigan, for example, requires home school educators to be certified teachers, unless the parents object for religious reasons. Florida, like most states, has minimal requirements for home education, such as notification and evaluation. Overall, the public is increasingly accepting of home schooling, but many would prefer to see clear and definite regulations for it. [TOP]

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are public schools with a particular theme or academic focus. They provide specialized teaching that pairs students with a subject area such as math, science, communications, business, or the performing arts. The main purpose of magnet schools is to provide families with the option of choosing a school that matches a student’s interests, promote academic achievement and attract substantial numbers of students of different racial backgrounds. Magnet schools recruit students from neighborhoods outside of their attendance zones in order to create a diverse school population. Admission into magnet schools is often regulated in order to keep a racial balance, though other application criteria may also be considered. In fact, magnet schools were originally developed in the 1970s to remedy racial segregation in public schools. Magnet programs were usually placed in schools with a high number of students from just one ethnic or racial group. Magnet schools allowed for the reassignment of children or faculty to reduce, eliminate or prevent minority group isolation. Magnet schools provide students with specialized programs and create innovative learning approaches in a diverse environment. [TOP]

McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities

The McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities is named for former Senate President John M. McKay, R-Bradenton, who is the parent of a child with disabilities and a longtime proponent of school choice and programs to help children who are disabled. The scholarship was established to provide students the option to attend a public school other than the one assigned, or to provide a scholarship to a participating private school. The McKay Scholarship offers parents of children with disabilities who are dissatisfied with their child’s progress an option to attend a school of their choice. Parents are responsible for selecting the participating private school and applying for the student’s admission to the private school. In August 2002, almost 375,000 students were eligible for the McKay Scholarship. In June 2003, roughly 9,200 students were using the scholarship. The McKay scholarship requires no additional cost to taxpayers and no or little additional cost to the families who use it. Students are eligible for the McKay Scholarship if they have been enrolled and reported in a Florida public school during the previous year, have an Individual Education Plan (IEP), and have completed a year of kindergarten. [TOP]

No Child Left Behind Public School Choice

No Child Left Behind was signed into law on January 8, 2002. The main purpose of the act is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments. To achieve this, No Child Left Behind established Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which measures the progress of all public schools, and school districts toward enabling all students to meet the State’s academic achievement standards. If schools do not make AYP, parents may have options for their children or their children may receive extra help.

The main purpose of the act is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and assessments. For more information on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in Florida, visit the Florida Department of Education’s website at http://www.fldoe.org/NCLB/.

For the US Department of Education’s most recent draft guidance on public school choice, visit the following link: http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/schoolchoiceguid.pdf. [TOP]

Open Enrollment

Open enrollment allows a public school student to transfer to another public school regardless of residence. Open enrollment programs have been implemented in 33 states. Each state has its own open enrollment program in varying degrees. There are two types of open enrollment policies: intradistrict and interdistrict. Intradistrict programs allow a student to move to another public school within his or her assigned district. Interdistrict programs allow a student to move to another public school within another district. Both of these can be either voluntary or mandatory, depending on the whether the state needs its districts to participate or not. In Florida, both types of open enrollment are voluntary. School districts in Florida are not required to implement intradistrict or interdistrict open enrollment programs.

There are three options for open enrollment: school choice, curriculum choice and choice based on hardship.

  • School choice: You may choose to transfer your child to another public school within the district if there is space available without giving a specific reason. If there are more applicants than spots available, a lottery determines who attends.
  • Curriculum choice: You can request a transfer if your child’s assigned school does not offer a special program that your child is interested.
  • Choices based on hardship: You may request to transfer your child to a school outside your district or county if you work in that attendance zone or plan to move to that zone. It is also permitted if your child has a before or after school caretaker in that zone.

[TOP]

Parent Liaisons

The following link provides a Q&A document regarding district virtual instruction programs and ESE students. It would be beneficial for the parent liaisons at each PRC to review and use as a resource tool. http://www.fldoe.org/Schools/virtual-schools/pdf/qa.pdf. [TOP]

Opportunity Scholarships

On January 5, 2006, the Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling declaring the private school option of the Opportunity Scholarship Program unconstitutional. Students assigned to a failing school are no longer offered the opportunity to transfer and enroll in a participating private school. The option to attend a higher performing public school remains in effect. [TOP]

Satellite Schools

Satellite learning centers are business and education partnerships in which the schools are located on business work sites. A business can either provide educational services to an existing public school or it can pay the school for permission to advertise their product on school property. Satellite schools were created in Miami-Dade County, Florida. In 1987, Cutler Ridge Satellite School was the first satellite learning center to open in the United States. American Bankers Insurance Group, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the United Teachers of Dade created the center to serve only children of their employees. The corporation shares the school’s liability insurance costs with the district and donates utilities, security and maintenance. The district provides the school’s faculty, staff and curriculum. The satellite center program helps cut costs for the school district and helps the parents because it is usually near their workplace. The Florida Legislature has approved these types of partnerships and satellite centers by encouraging corporations to invest in them by offering special advertising tax exemptions. [TOP]

Supplemental Education Services

No Child Left Behind was signed into law on January 8, 2002. The main purpose of the act is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments. To achieve this, No Child Left Behind established Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which measures the progress of all public schools, and school districts toward enabling all students to meet the State’s academic achievement standards. If schools do not make AYP, parents may have options for their children or their children may receive extra help.

Title I schools that have not made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two consecutive years will be identified as needing improvement and the students that have attended or assigned to such a school will be given the option to transfer to a higher-performing public school in the district. If a Title I school does not make AYP for three consecutive years, the school remains in school improvement and the district may continue to offer public school choice to students. In addition, the school must now also provide supplemental education services to students. Parents can choose the services their child needs from a list of providers that is approved by the Florida Department of Education.

For more information on Supplemental Education Services, visit the Florida Department of Education’s website at http://www.fldoe.org/flbpso/nclbchoice/ses/ses.asp. [TOP]

Virtual Schools

Virtual schools provide classes via the Internet for students, regardless of the school district they are enrolled. A statewide virtual high school is typically state-approved and accredited. At least 14 states have planned or are already running statewide virtual high schools. Some of these states include: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia. Virtual schools focus mainly on Advanced Placement and college-preparatory courses that some traditional high schools cannot provide. Florida was the first state to fund a statewide virtual high school, Florida Virtual School, in 1997. They have personnel from 17 counties and they serve students from all over the state. Home-schooled, public or private students are allowed to take courses through Florida Virtual School. Other states, such as Kentucky, however, only allow public school students to enroll in their virtual classes. In Pennsylvania, new brands of charter schools called “cyber charter schools” are being developed. Cyber charter schools are public schools sponsored by the state or local school district, and like regular charter schools, they are free from much of the state regulations. These schools offer students a complete online curriculum, so they do all of their work from home. At a recent cyber charter school graduation in Pennsylvania, 56 graduates met for the first time. [TOP]