Editor’s note: This week is National School Choice Week, so it’s only fitting that we bring you this statistical snapshot of how deeply school choice has taken root in Florida, arguably the leading state for expanding learning options.
Too many of those who hail Florida as a national leader in school choice miss the breadth of change afoot. Yes, students are choosing charters and tax credit scholarships and vouchers in ever-increasing numbers. But school districts themselves are also helping to create a new normal in public education, and the latest enrollment numbers bear that out.
Get this: 1.5 million students in Florida last year attended something other than their assigned neighborhood school. That’s 42 of every 100 students in PreK-12.
The “Changing Landscape” document below is a project of the Florida Alliance for Choices in Education and Step Up For Students, and it was produced in partnership with the state Department of Education’s Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice. The state tracks a wide variety of educational options in the 67 school districts, and the numbers are eye-opening.
In 2012-13, one of every four K-12 students chose a district-operated school that was outside their neighborhood, whether it be through “open enrollment” polices or to take advantage of a special magnet school or career academy or International Baccalaureate program. At the same time, non-district options experienced remarkable growth from the previous year: charter enrollment up 13 percent, vouchers for disabled students up 10 percent, tax credit scholarships for low-income students up 27 percent. And the biggest voucher program in Florida continued to be for pre-kindergarten, last year serving more than 144,000 4-year-olds in private centers and schools.
These are seismic shifts in the way education is being delivered and can only serve to stimulate more demand. Children who succeed in a school environment that is tailored to their needs will become adults who insist on the same for their offspring. As these numbers tend to suggest, that type of generational change is already under way.