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Gallagher Closes Investigation on Virtual Schools

3/15/2004

CONTACT: Tami Torres
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE - Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher today officially closed an investigation related to a $4.8 million pilot program for virtual school vouchers, saying a careful review yielded no evidence that the state Department of Education (DOE) intentionally misinformed two virtual schools - Florida Virtual Academy and Connection Academy - that they could enroll kindergarten and first grade students in the K-8 virtual school pilot project. The error was in misinterpretation of the law.

At issue in the investigation was whether 227 kindergarten or first grade students in the pilot project were eligible to participate because state lawmakers limited eligibility to "students who were enrolled and in attendance at a Florida public school during the prior school year." When the DOE started the program, it issued a request for proposal (RFP) which stated that for kindergarten and first grade enrollment, students "who meet the minimum age requirements for attendance at regular public schools shall be eligible" for the pilot program.

Recognizing the misinterpretation of eligibility but faced with 227 students already enrolled in the pilot project, the DOE submitted a funding request to the Legislative Budget Commission in the amount of nearly $1.1 million to meet the continuing education needs of those 227 children. The Commission approved the request.

"A recent legislative appropriation clearly shows that state lawmakers wanted for those kindergarten and first grade students to continue participating in the virtual school pilot project," said Gallagher, who said determining legislative intent was the primary concern in the investigation.