MIAMI — The Florida Virtual School has laid off several hundred teachers in response to a decline in enrollment and change in funding.
The online school cut 177 full-time positions and 625 part-time instructors over July and August. The layoffs come in light of a significant decline in enrollment. Thirty-two percent fewer students pre-enrolled for August and September courses as of July 23 compared to the previous year.
“As a result of a decline in pre-enrollments, for the first time in 16 years, we had to make the painful decision to reduce staff,” Florida Virtual School spokeswoman Tania Clow said.
The Florida Legislature has also changed the funding model for virtual school education. Before July 1, a traditional school received a set amount of funding to provide six classes for each student, and the Florida Virtual School received the equivalent of one-sixth that amount for each additional course the student enrolled in online.
Now funding has been capped to the amount that was traditionally provided to the brick-and-mortar school. So for each additional online class the student enrolls in, the school loses money, and the Florida Virtual School receives less – the equivalent of one-seventh of the traditional school’s funding instead of one-sixth.
Florida Virtual School grew out of a pilot project and offers more than 120 courses free to students who live in Florida. One of its students was Aly Raisman, a member of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team.
With the cuts, there are a remaining 1,745 positions, the majority of those teachers and instructional support staff.
Supporters of the Florida Virtual School have said the funding change could affect the quality of operations at the school. Others, who defend the legislative changes, say the school was getting a financial advantage over other districts.