South Florida’s using School Choice
Bottom Line: With the 2019-2020 school year about a month into existence we’ve had information flowing in from across the state that’s in many cases a result of new policy enacted during this year’s state session. One of those pieces of information has to do with the expansion of the Guardian program. Of the state’s 67 counties only 7, or just over 10% are allowing educators to enter the program. Another has to do with school choice.
School choice has been one of the most hotly contested political issues that a majority of Floridians support for some time. The teacher’s unions and their allies on the left politically in the state fight expansions of the program, while most Floridians – especially those with children in impoverished school districts strongly support them with the aid of Republicans in state government. With Republican control in Tallahassee, we’ve continued to see the expansion of vouchers in recent years – including a big boost during the state session this year. The result is a record number of children making use of the programs available.
- Approximately 100,000 children are now enrolled with use of the state’s tax credit scholarship program
- Approximately 300,000 children are enrolled in charter schools across the state
Both of those numbers are records and show no signs of slowing down provided resources and opportunities continue to grow going forward. We’re especially seeing the impact in South Florida. Enrollment in Broward & Miami Dade’s traditional public schools has fallen for the second consecutive year as charter and private school participation has continued to grow with the use of vouchers and school choice. In Palm Beach County, enrollment in traditional public schools was higher by 315 students with charters adding an additional 900 students. In all instances we’re seeing alternatives to the traditional public schools outgrow/outpace.
Despite the usual animus towards charters by traditional public-school administrators this is proving to be a win-win pragmatically. Classroom sizes and teacher shortages have presented challenges for years for these school districts. By having reduced student counts in the traditional public schools, it mitigates that issue to some extent presenting better opportunities for all students. Hopefully Florida continues to move in the direction of school choice. Everyone has the opportunity to benefit if we focus on outcomes and opportunity rather than politics.