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Education Commissioner Promises ‘Parental Choice’ For Distance Learners Will Continue, But Per-Student Funding Remains A Question

Photo: Christin Hume

The state Department of Education is expected to issue a new order before the end of November, acting as an extension of its July mandate requiring schools offer in-person instruction. 

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s original order provided full per-student funding for those who wished to use distance learning rather than go to campus.

Though Corcoran promised the new order will keep the original’s “parental choice” provision, he wouldn’t say definitively whether districts will continue to receive full funding for virtual learners.

“We’re going through that right now, and working with the districts. So, we’ve said consistently for weeks now that probably before Thanksgiving we’d have, hopefully, the new emergency order.”

As many students will continue learning online, Corcoran says in the coming legislative session, closing the “digital divide” will be a priority. That means making sure students have access to devices and adequate internet connection.

Corcoran was asked about teacher pay by state Board of Education Member Michael Olenick, who has previously locked horns with the commissioner over handling of COVID-19 data. Olenick says teachers have taken on more responsibilities while teaching during a pandemic.

“We need to urge the legislature not to pull the plug on teacher compensation. Any reduction will cause significant problems, both financial and from a labor standpoint. And it’s now more than ever, during COVID, the teachers deserve that raise. Their job description has changed drastically over the last year.”

Corcoran told Olenick “despite being in one of the worst economic times coming out of the summer,” Gov. Ron DeSantis will “protect” the teacher compensation package.

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