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Troubled Florida Virtual School Still Under State Scrutiny

Nov 17, 2019

State education officials continue to consider changes to the operations of Florida Virtual School, which has faced a number of problems, including questionable spending and a wide-ranging data breach.

The State Board of Education on Friday was briefed on recommended changes to the virtual school, including establishing an Office of Inspector General to “promote accountability, integrity and efficiency” and conduct an annual audit report of the operations.

Another proposal, which will be considered by the board in January, would reduce a virtual-school franchise fee that school districts pay to have online courses. The franchise model would only charge “what is necessary for cost recovery of the course,” state officials added in a report.

The proposal would save school districts about $2.1 million each year.

Department of Education officials also are recommending improving the virtual school’s cybersecurity in the wake of a breach in February 2018 that exposed the personal information of roughly 368,000 students and 1,500 teachers.

“The cybersecurity program needs to be strengthened through better documentation, framework design and a new reporting structure to continue defending itself against threats,” according to a report from the education department.

Lawmakers this spring passed a budget-related bill (SB 2502) that shifted control of the virtual school to the State Board of Education, replacing the previous board of trustees. That bill took effect in July, with the start of the state’s new fiscal year.

Eventually, the goal is to help the virtual school “return to its own board of trustees, rather than oversight by the SBOE,” according to the report.