One of the strangest things in Florida related to education is the attempt by the state to run its own education business and fight fiercely against private sector competition.
What makes it strange is that in nearly every other respect, Florida is leading the nation in education reform, especially in school choice.
Fortunately, a court recently slapped down the state’s latest attempt to create a monopoly in the field of online education and export its products out of the state.
Stride has 200,000 students online nationwide, 9,000 in Florida. The company’s administrative headquarters is in Jacksonville.
The Florida Legislature created Florida Online High School as an independent, state-funded educational entity within the public education system in 1997. It was renamed Florida Virtual School in 2001 and expanded to offer programing from kindergarten through high school. K12 also offers online education programs and contracts with individual Florida public school districts.
K12 launched Florida Online School, abbreviated “FLOS,” under a contract with the Hendry County School District in 2019. FVS objected and K12 agreed to drop the name, but FVS sued anyway.
In court it demanded all of K12’s profits for a two-year period as damages.
But a judge for the U.S. Middle District of Florida said the Florida Virtual School trademarks merited little protection, K12’s mark differed significantly, and FVS failed to offer “credible” evidence of actual confusion.
The state spent $1 million on the lawsuit, which the court described as “a marathon trademark dispute twelve years in the making.”
District Judge Gregory A. Presnell slammed the state in his ruling saying, “Rather than an indication of Defendants’ nefarious intent, Plaintiff’s argument exposes its attempt to use its weak trademarks to bully its competitors.”
With a governor and legislature who support free markets and limited government, the state’s actions in this case are puzzling. What appears to be happening is that the Dept. of Education is becoming a retirement home for former politicians, and they are seeking to create their own empires, as politicians are wont to do regardless of party.
Someone in the upper echelons of state government should pay attention to this situation, which is counter to conservative principles and not in keeping with the trend in the Sunshine State.