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Florida State Regulations

Updated April 15, 2015

State Regulation of Private Schools (Revised July 2009) is the last full report.

Private Schools

Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval

    • Accreditation: no requirements
    • Registration: required
  • The chief administrator of each private school must complete an annual database survey and file it with the Florida Department of Education (FDE). s. 1002.42, Florida Statute (F.S.).
  • Registration for each school can be found at: http://www.fldoe.org/schools/school-choice/private-schools/general-requirements.stml.
    • Licensing: no requirements
    • Approval: no requirements

Teacher Certification

  • Teacher certification is not required for instructional personnel in private schools. However, an owner of a private school may require school employees to file a complete set of fingerprints with the Department of Law Enforcement for processing and criminal records checking. Findings from such processing and checking shall be reported to the owner for use in employment decisions. s. 1002.42(2)(c)3, F.S.

Length of School Year and Days

  • Attendance at a private school satisfies the compulsory school attendance law if the child maintains regular attendance during the school term of either 180 actual school days or a minimum of 170 actual school days and the hourly equivalent of 180 actual school days. In kindergarten, this requires 540 net instructional hours; in grades one through three, 720 net instructional hours; and in grades four through 12, 900 net instructional hours. Rule 6A-1.09512, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.).

Curriculum

  • The state and local school district do not have the authority to oversee or control the curriculum or academic programs of private schools or home instruction programs. s. 1002.42(2)(h), F.S.
  • Florida regulates biological experiments performed on living subjects conducted in grades K–12. For example, no dissection may be performed on any living mammal or bird. Students can be excused upon written request by a parent from dissection of nonliving mammals or birds. Private schools keeping live animals on the premises must house them in a humane and safe manner. Teachers failing to comply with these provisions may be disciplined by the school authorities. s. 1003.47, F.S.
  • A private school that wishes to engage in high school athletic competitions with a public high school may become a member of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA). ss. 1006.20(1) and 1002.42(8), F.S.

Recordkeeping and Reports

  • Parochial, denominational, and private schools must keep a register of student enrollment and daily attendance in a manner prescribed by the state and open for inspection by the local superintendent or designated school representative. s. 1003.23. F.S.
  • The register may be used as evidence in a court procedure for the enforcement of the Florida compulsory education statute. s. 1003.27(5), F.S.
  • Prior to admission to prekindergarten or kindergarten, a private school principal must require that the child provide evidence of age, such as a transcript of the child’s birth record or certificate of baptism. s. 1003.21(4), F.S.
  • An Immunization Annual Report of Compliance must be completed for private schools that enroll kindergarten or seventh -grade students. Private schools may collect the necessary form (Department of Health Form 684) from Florida county health departments. ss. 1002.42(6) and 1003.22(8), F.S.
  • Private schools that become defunct must arrange for the transfer of student records to the local public school superintendent or, if a member, the principal office of a private school system or association. Notice of transfer must be given to the FDE. s. 1002.42(3)(b) and (c), F.S.
  • Private schools serving K-12 students must file a database survey form with the FDE indicating the name of the institution, address, telephone number, type, administrative officers, enrollment by grade or special group, number of graduates, number of instructional and administrative personnel, number of school days, and other data as needed under s. 1002.42(2), F.S.

Health and Safety Requirements

  • Private schools must require each student, upon his or her initial entrance into school, to present a certification of school-entry health examination performed within one year before enrollment. Students are exempt if parents object in writing based on religious grounds. ss. 1002.42(5),(6) and 1003.22(1),(5)(a), F.S.
  • Private schools may permit a student up to 30 school days to present health exam certification. Students who are homeless, dependent, or in shelter care are given temporary exemptions and assistance in obtaining the health exam. s. 1003.2(5), F.S.
  • Prior to attending a private school, children must submit Department of Health Form 680 documenting immunizations to prevent communicable diseases. Immunizations, with age-appropriate doses, are required for poliomyelitis, diphtheria, rubeola (measles), rubella (German measles), pertussis, mumps, tetanus, and other communicable diseases as determined by the rules of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. Students are exempt if their parents object in writing based on a conflict with religious tenants or practices. ss. 1002.42(5), (6) and 1003.22(1), F.S.
  • Private schools must provide appropriate pupil screening at the proper age for scoliosis. Students are exempt if their parents object in writing based on a conflict with religious tenets or practices. ss. 1002.42(6) and 1003.22(1)(f), F.S.
  • Private schools that prepare food intended for individual portion service must comply with the minimum sanitation standards promulgated by the Department of Health. s. 381.0072 (1)(b), F.S.
  • Chief administrative officers of private schools must file a complete set of fingerprints for state processing and checking for criminal background. The cost must be borne by the applicant or private school. Persons convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude are prohibited from owning or operating a private school. The chief administrative officer may also require school employees to file a complete set of fingerprints. s. 1002.42(2)(c), (3).
  • Private school teachers, officials, and other personnel who know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused or neglected must report the information to the Department of Children and Families’ central abuse registry and tracking system. s. 39.201, F.S.
  • Each private school that accepts scholarship students under ss. 1002.39 or 1002.395, F.S. must post a notice in a prominent place indicating that, pursuant to chapter 39, all employees have an affirmative duty to report all actual or suspected cases of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect. The schools also have a duty to comply with child protective investigations relating to such. The notice must be posted in a prominent place on the school’s website (if available) indicating the policies and procedure for reporting alleged misconduct by school employees that affects the health, safety, or welfare of a student. The principal will be required, at the request of Department of Children and Families, to act as a liaison with the Department and the child protection team when there is a case of suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect, or an unlawful sexual offense involving a child. s. 1006.061, F.S.
  • Private schools may not exist at either end of a runway of a publicly owned, public-use airport. s. 333.03(3), F.S.
  • Each principal or designee of each private school must notify the appropriate law enforcement agency to prohibit any person from loitering within 500 feet of school property who does not have legitimate business in the area or any other authorization or license to enter or remain in the area. s. 810.0975, F.S.

Transportation

  • Private schools operating school buses with a seating capacity of 24 or more pupils must comply with state requirements outlined in ss. 1006 and 316.615(1), F.S.
  • Private schools operating school buses seating fewer than 24 students must comply with state requirements regarding inspections, equipment, liability insurance, and driver physical examination requirements. s. 316.615(2)(a),F.S.
  • District school boards may make available, by contract, bus driver training programs to private school bus drivers. ss. 1002.42(14). and 1012.45(4), F.S.
  • Florida private schools with racially nondiscriminatory student admission policies may purchase school buses through the state pool purchase program. s. 1002.42(15)(a), F.S.
  • School crossing guard training programs administered by local government entities may provide training to private schools by contract. s. 316.75, F.S.
  • Private school students may be transported on public school buses; and public school students may be transported on private school buses where there is a mutual agreement between the local school board and the applicable private school and the buses are equipped with safety belts or with any other restraint system approved by the federal government. ss. 317.6145 and 316.6146, F.S.

Textbooks

  • The FDE is authorized to sell at cost to private schools and the general public educational materials and products developed by or under its direction. ss. 1002.42(9) and 1006.39(2), F.S.
  • Local district school boards may give private schools instructional materials when they become surplus, unserviceable, or no longer on state contract, in accordance with ss. 1006.41(1)(a) and 1002.42(10), F.S.

Testing

  • No statutory requirement exists for student assessment. The owners of private elementary and secondary schools in Florida are solely responsible for all aspects of their educational programs, including student assessment. s. 1002.42(2)(h),F.S.
  • A private school that participates in state school choice scholarship programs must administer annually or make a provision for students in grades three through 10 who participate in the scholarship program to take one of the FDE-approved nationally norm-referenced tests or the statewide assessments. A participating private school must report annually the scores to the independent organization selected by the FDE. s. 1002.395(8), (9), F.S.

Special Education

  • Diagnostic and resource centers are authorized to provide testing and evaluation services to private school students. ss. 1002.42(11) and 1006.03(3), F.S.
  • The local district school boards may provide instruction for exceptional students through contractual arrangements with approved private schools at a cost determined by those boards. ss. 1002.42(12) and 1003.57(1)(b), F.S. Rule 6A-6.0361, F.A.C.

Nursing and Health

  • Each county health department shall develop, jointly with the district school board and the local school health advisory committee, a school health services plan. The plan must require that local private schools be notified of the school health services program and of the opportunity for local private school representatives to participate in developing the cooperative health services plan. A private school may request to participate in the school health services program. A private school voluntarily participating in the school health services program shall fulfill certain requirements. ss. 381.0056(4)(a)18 and 381.0056(5), F.S.

Technology

  • No state policy addressing the use of technology in private schools exists at this time.

Professional Development

  • Private school teachers and administrators may participate in in-service teacher education programs on comprehensive health education and substance abuse prevention on a fee-for-service basis. ss. 1012.985(1) and 1012.98(6), F.S.
  • An organization of private schools with at least 10 members in Florida may develop a professional development system to be filed with FDE in accordance with the provisions of s. 1012.98(6), F.S. The system may be used for extension of a certificate or a new endorsement. ss. 1012.585(3)(a) and 1002.42(13), F.S.

Reimbursement for Performing State and Local Functions

  • No state policy addressing reimbursement to private schools for performing state and local functions currently exists.

Tax Exemption

  • Educational institutions, including parochial church or private schools and their property, are exempt from taxation. ss. 196.198 and 196.012(5), F.S.
  • Educational institutions, including church and nonprofit private schools meeting certain requirements, are also exempt from tax on the sale and use of tangible personal property (such as school books and lunches), annual and nonrecurring tax on intangible personal property, and local occupational license tax. ss. 212.08 and 199.183, F.S.
  • Motor fuel taxes paid by private schools for operating school buses will be returned to the schools to be used for transportation-related purposes. s. 206.41(4)(e), F.S.

Public Aid for Private Education

  • Constitutional Provisions: “No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.” Florida Constitution, Article 1, §3.
  • Programs for Financial Assistance for Attendance at Private Schools:
    • The John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program was created in 1999. It provides students with disabilities, for whom an individual educational plan has been written in accordance with the rules of the State Board of Education, the option to attend a public school other than the one he or she is assigned to or a scholarship to attend a participating private school of choice. The maximum amount of the annual scholarship is the estimated calculation shall be equivalent to the base student allocation in the Florida Education Finance Program multiplied by the appropriate cost factor for the educational program that would have been provided for the student in the district school to which he or she was assigned, multiplied by the district cost differential, or the private school’s tuition and fees, whichever is less. s. 1002.39, F.S.
    • The Florida Tax Credit Scholarships Program, created in 2001, provides tax credits for contributions to nonprofit scholarship funding organizations (SFOs). The SFOs then award scholarships to eligible children of families with limited financial resources to attend registered private schools that meet the requirements of F.S. 1002.421. The tax credit cap for the 2014-15 state fiscal year is $357,812,500. The tax credit cap amount will increase to $447,265,625 for the 2015-16 state fiscal year. s. 1002.395, F.S.
    • Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts are available to students who have a disability, such as (1) autism (as defined in s. 393.063(3), F.S.); (2) cerebral palsy (as defined in s. 393.063(4), F.S.); (3) Down syndrome (as defined in s. 393.063(13), F.S.); (4) an intellectual disability (as defined in s. 393.063(36) F.S.); (5) spina bifida (as defined in s. 393.063(36), F.S.); (6) for a student in kindergarten, being a high-risk child (as defined in s. 393.063(20)(a), F.S.); and (7) Williams syndrome. The funds can be used to pay tuition or fees to an eligible private school. s. 1002.385, F.S.

Home Schools

Home Education Programs

  • Home education is defined as “the sequentially progressive instruction of a student directed by his or her parent in order to satisfy the attendance requirements of ss. 1002.41, 1003.01(13), and 1003.21(1).” s. 1002.01, F.S.

Initial and Renewal Applications

  • Within 30 days of establishing a home education program, the parent must notify the district school superintendent in the county where the parent resides of his or her intent to establish a home education program. The notice must be in writing, signed by the parent, and must include the names, addresses, and birth dates of the children being homeschooled. The parent is not required to hold a valid regular Florida certificate to teach. s. 1002.41(1), F.S.
  • Home education programs must maintain a portfolio of educational records. The Florida statute defines a portfolio as “a log of educational activities which is made contemporaneously with the instruction and which designates by title any reading materials used, and samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student.” The portfolio of education records must be available for inspection by the superintendent upon a 15-day written notice. s. 1002.41(1)(b), F.S.
  • The student’s portfolio must be preserved for a minimum of two years. s. 1002.41(1)(b), F.S.
  • Within 30 days of closing a home education program, the parent must submit a letter of termination to the district school superintendent. s. 1002.41(1)(a), F.S.
  • The family must notify the school district if the student wishes to terminate the home education program at 16 and the student must be notified according to s. 1003.21, F.S. that his/her earning power is likely to be reduced. Per Home Education FAQs.

Curriculum and Instruction

  • The requirements of the school day do not apply to home education programs. s. 1002.41 (3), F.S.
  • Home education school students are eligible to participate in Florida’s Bright Future Scholarship Program established to reward Florida high school graduates who merit recognition of high academic achievement. s. 1009.531,F.S.
  • Under the Florida National Merit Scholar Program, a home education student who receives recognition as a National Merit Scholar or a National Achievement Scholar and initially enrolls in the 2014-15 academic year or later in a baccalaureate degree program at an eligible Florida postsecondary educational institution is eligible to receive an incentive award. This award is equal to the institutional cost of the public postsecondary educational institution or the highest cost of attendance at a Florida public university (if the student is attending an independent postsecondary educational institution [private]) minus the sum of the student’s Florida Bright Futures Scholarship and National Merit Scholarship or National Achievement Scholarship. s. 1009.893, F.S.

Assessment and Diplomas

  • Home education programs must provide an annual evaluation of the student’s educational progress to the district school superintendent. The evaluation must be completed in one of the following ways: (1) a Florida certified teacher’ may evaluate the child’s progress based on a review of the portfolio and discussion with the student; (2) the student may participate in a nationally normed student achievement test administered by a certified teacher; (3) the student may participate in a state student assessment test at a location and under testing conditions approved by the school district; (4) the student may be evaluated by a psychologist holding a valid, active license pursuant to s. 490.003(7) or (8), F.S.; or (5) the student may be evaluated with any other valid measurement tool as mutually agreed upon by the parent and the superintendent. s. 1002.41(1)(c), F.S.
  • If a student does not possess an official transcript or is a home education student, credits shall be validated through performance during the first grading period. Rule 6A-1.09941, F.A.C.
  • School districts are required to provide state assessment tests to home education students, if the parent chooses this form of evaluation per s. 1002.41(1)(c)3, F.S.

Special Education

  • Home education students may receive testing and evaluation services at diagnostic and resource centers, in accordance with the provisions of ss. 1006.03 and 1002.41(9), F.S.

Public School Access

  • A home education student is eligible to participate in interscholastic activities at the public school that the student would be assigned to attend if the student attended public school or may develop an agreement to participate at a private school. The student may participate if he or she: (1) meets the requirements of the home education program pursuant to s. 1002.41, F.S.; (2) demonstrates education progress in a manner defined in s. 1006.15(3)(c)2, F.S.; (3) meets the same standards of acceptance, behavior, and performance as required of the other students; and (4) has successfully completed one grading period in home education if the student was unable to maintain academic eligibility as a public or private school student. s. 1006.15(3)(c), F.S.
  • Any organization or entity that regulates or governs interscholastic extracurricular activities of public schools must permit home education associations to join as member schools, and must not discriminate against any eligible home education student. ss. 1006.15(5) and (6), F.S.

Web Resources

Information and Legislative

Contact Information – State and Federal Departments of Education

Florida Department of Education
Turlington Building
Suite 1514
325 West Gaines Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400
Phone: 850-245-0505
Fax: 850-245-9667
Email: commissioner@fldoe.org
Website: http://www.fldoe.org/
U.S. Department of Education, Florida

Updated April 15, 2015