Tens of thousands of thousands of public school students in Florida take local college courses for free while they’re still in high school – a “dual enrollment” program that is popular with families who want to save on college tuition down the road.
Now, under proposed legislation, students in private schools – as well as home school students – would be able take full advantage of the dual enrollment classes at taxpayer expense. They would get books and other instructional materials for free. That wasn’t the case in the past. Public school students already get free books and materials.
Currently, local school districts are required to pay for the dual enrollment classes, using the pot of money that the state disburses to public schools. Under the legislation, private schools would not have to cover the cost of tuition and fees for their students in dual enrollment classes – that would be covered by taxpayers.
The legislation is worded this way: “Costs associated with tuition and fees, including registration, and laboratory fees, will not be passed along to the student or the student’s private school of enrollment.”
The Senate Education Committee approved the legislation Tuesday, but it would still have to be approved by the House and the governor.
A line-up of private school lobbyists and advocates showed their support at the Senate Education Committee meeting.
That included Michael Sheedy, of the Florida Catholic Conference and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops; Howard Burke, of the Florida Association of Christian Colleges & Schools; Brenda Dickinson, of the Florida Council of Independent Schools and the Home Education Foundation, and Shan Goff, of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, a conservative nonprofit founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
The private schools have been in the middle of a battle over expanding school vouchers that allow students to attend private schools with public dollars. Teacher unions and educators and other critics are opposed to voucher programs.
If the dual-enrollment legislation is approved, it would likely open the door for more private school students to take the dual-enrollment classes.
In 2017-18, 72,465 students participated in dual enrollment classes, with 66,472 students from public high schools, 2,934 students from private high schools and 3,381 students who have been in home school, according to a legislative analysis.