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Legislation Could Threaten Early College Classes

Cyd Hoskinson

School Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti’s plan to create what he calls "a college going culture" in each of Duval County's public high schools may have to be scaled back if state lawmakers get their way.

Vitti wants more students to participate in the dual enrollment program where students can take college classes and earn college credits for free while they're still in high school.

Not only is it an exceptionally good deal for students who know they want to go to college and save some money, Vitti says it's also a great confidence builder for students who may want to go to college but who don't think they've got what it takes to make the grade.

"What I have seen is dual enrollment is probably the best strategy, and research shows this, in proving to the individual child that he or she is capable of going to college."

There are two ways students can participate in dual enrollment.  They can take college classes that are taught by qualified teachers at their high school or they can enroll in the early college program and take courses on a college campus.

The district's only cost, Vitti says, is for books and transportation. 

But that could change.

As Vitti told school board members Tuesday night,  Florida lawmakers are currently considering legislation that would require school districts to pay full college tuition for students who take classes on campus.  

"What it will do is basically end our early college program."

Districts could also find themselves saddled with an additional bill if lawmakers decide to start charging them for  virtual classes.

"Right now it's required that every high school student take at least one virtual class."

Vitti says even if districts only have to pick up part of the tab, it could still end up costing Duval County around $10-million.

"So in one way you're requiring us to take virtual classes, the legislature is.  Not a bad thing if it's free of cost, but if you're requiring us to pay, again--unfunded mandate--where we're now having to shift dollars from, lets say, arts and music or media specialists in every school to now having to fund this."

Vitti says it's frustrating.

"We should be developing policy in collaboration, meaning districts and the legislature work together on what's best for the kids."