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House, Senate OK virtual education expansion

With the clock winding down on the 2013 Legislative session, the House signed off on a bill that would revamp virtual education in Florida.

The proposal would enable more private online education companies to do business with public schools. And it directs state education officials to conduct a study on Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, so that Florida may look into offering the classes for credit.

Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., R-Miami, who sponsored the bill in the House, said the bill will help break down barriers, so that "no matter where a student's zip code is, he or she will have access to a world-class education."

He added: "If we want to be a leader in education, we have to keep up with the technology and explore these avenues."

The bill won the support of the Senate on Thursday.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, likened the proposal to “letting the outstanding [online education providers] from around the world come to the state of Florida, and allowing our teachers and students to decide what’s best for them.”

Said Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando: “Here we go again. Another way to privatize our public schools.”

It is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott for final approval.