Find out how Florida's new school enrollment changes work

Parents allowed to move students to school in different county across state

Parents looking to move their child to a school in another school district will be able to do so beginning with the 2017-2018 school year.

On Thursday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a comprehensive schools bill (HB 7029), which details the new provisions under the new controlled open enrollment program.

“Parents of public school students may seek any public educational school choice options that are applicable and available to students throughout the state,” the bill stated.

The law previously gave parents the option to only seek a school in their respective school district. Education leaders say this is uncharted territory.

"We're going to have to set some policies in place. We're talking to our neighboring communities to figure out how we work with them because this really could be absolute chaos if not managed right," Orange County School Board Chairman Bill Sublette said.

Under the new law parents are able to move students to single-gender programs, lab schools, virtual instruction programs, charter schools and charter technical career centers, as possible options, the bill stated.

The law also allows parents of public schools students to possibly choose private education as a choice under certain programs.

Sublette calls the law "poorly thought out legislation" and says it could burden taxpayers who are funding education for students who may not live in the district.

The new law expands to students who participate in school athletic programs.

“Eligibility requirements for all students participating in high school athletic competition must allow a student to be immediately eligible in the school in which he or she first enrolls each school year, the school in which the student makes himself or herself a candidate for an athletic team by engaging in practice before enrolling, or the school to which the student has transferred in accordance with,” the bill states.

The old law stated a district's school board had to approve before a student could participate.

Students who are under current expulsion or suspension are excluded from participating in the controlled open enrollment program, the bill states.

Also, parents can enroll their students in a different school if the school has not reached full capacity, as outlined by Florida’s maximum class size limit.

Exceptions to controlled open enrollment have also been outlined in the law to include children of active duty military personnel, in the foster care program, children who move due to custody in separation, divorce, illness or death of custodial parents, and students who currently live in the school district, the bill stated.

Each school board is required to post on its respective websites the requirements for participation, provide parents access to state school preference, a lottery system for school assignment, an appeals process, note available transportation and identify schools that have not reached full capacity.

Some parents are in favor of the new law, while others worry about what could happen.

"I don't know if it's a terrible idea, but there is going to be some outcomes that are just not in the best interest in sports and competition," parent Jim Littlejohn said.

"Some schools have more push for academics, some have more for athletics, and a lot of parents would be more inclined to a school that focuses on certain things," parent Cassie Greis said.

The 13 districts that make up the Central Florida Public School Boards Coalition is meeting next month to start discussions on the new law. The group plans to establish a definition of capacity so there is an objective and fair procedure for all families who want to transfer.

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HB 7029