Florida Lawmakers Look Into Virtual Schools

One of the fights will be over letting kindergarten through 8th grade students take classes over the Internet. Florida has two virtual school programs that let up to a thousand kids take all their classes online. The pilot program began last year.

Parent Bobbie Ray says it turned her failing son's life around.

The program sparked controversy when the State Department of Education allowed kindergartners and first-graders in who were not eligible under the law. Now, the House of Representatives wants to continue the program for another year at a cost of about $5 million and include younger siblings of kids let in illegally

One of the major criticisms of virtual schools is it doesn't provide any of the social interaction students get in a traditional school setting.

Sen. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, (D) Pembroke Pines, FL, says “Interacting with the teacher directly and in person, interacting with their fellow students, the exchange of ideas that occurs in the school setting, those things are not part are not possible in a K-8 virtual school program.”

Rep. Joe Pickens sponsored the virtual school amendment. He says from t-ball to soccer to church, kids have plenty of other options for socializing.

“It can occur anywhere in America, you choose to socialize and so to say that the only or best way to socialize your children is to send them to a public school at the age of five I think is short-sighted.”

The House version of the budget would let the 200 children enrolled illegally in virtual schools last year stay in the program. The Senate budget does not include any money for virtual schools.

Lawmakers will form a conference committee to hash out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the state budget when they return from Easter break.