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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – April 15, 2016 – Florida has a new “school choice” law (CS/CS/HB 7029) that allows state students to attend any school they wish subject to a set of rules.
While it’s too early to predict the impact on the state’s housing market, 50 percent of buyers with children younger than 18 considered the quality of local schools an important consideration, according to the National Association of Realtors® 2015 buyer and sellers report. The law goes into effect July 1, 2016.
“While the new school choice law has a potential impact on buyer demand in certain neighborhoods, it’s important for buyers to understand that ‘school choice’ isn’t a sure thing,” says Margy Grant, Florida Realtors vice president and general counsel. “There are rules. A buyer’s child may or may not be allowed to attend a specific school – and even if they can, the parents may later find out acceptance to a middle school doesn’t lead to automatic acceptance into the area’s high school.
“Realtors should not tell buyers that their children can attend a different school, and all school district information should come directly from local records,” recommends Grant. “As always, Realtors should be the informational ‘source of the source’ to help buyers uncover the information they need to find their perfect home.”
Rules for Florida’s school choice program
Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, a parent whose child isn’t subject to a current expulsion or suspension order may seek enrollment in any public school in the state, including a charter school, providing that school is not operating a full student capacity.
Parents must provide transportation for any student attending a school outside of his or her district, though the chosen school “may provide student transportation at their discretion.”
When schools determine “capacity,” they must include “specifications, plans, elements, and commitments contained in the district’s educational facilities plan and required long-term work programs.” In other words, a school may not accept new students simply because a few classes have unoccupied desks.
Certain students take precedence over other students in an open enrollment process, including dependent children of active duty military personnel who moved as a result of military orders; children relocated due to foster care placement in a different school zone; children relocated due to a court ordered change in custody as a result of separation or divorce, or the serious illness or death of a parent; and students residing in the school district.
Charter schools may provide preferential treatment in the controlled open enrollment process to the enrollment limitations consistent with law and its charter contract. The charter school must post the application process on its website.
Students residing in the school district may not be displaced by a student from another district. In Florida, school districts tend to be operated at a countywide level.
A student who transfers may remain at a school until he or she completes the highest grade level offered. An out-of-district student accepted into an elementary school, for example, may remain at that elementary school until he or she completes all grades. However, continuation at that district’s middle school isn’t guaranteed.
Each district school board must post the open enrollment application process on its website required to participate in controlled open enrollment. In addition, it must maintain existing academic eligibility criteria, identify schools that have not reached capacity and ensure that each school board adopts a policy of preferential treatment.
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