Choice keeps growing in Miami-Dade County public schools

Travis Pillow

In the fourth-largest school district in the nation, students who attend their assigned neighborhood public school are now in the clear minority.

The Miami Herald reports:

Choice programs are becoming increasingly popular in Miami-Dade. Some 60 percent of Miami-Dade public school students — around 215,000 students — enrolled in some form of choice program, including charter schools, in 2016, compared to 41 percent in 2011.

That’s just public-school students. Miami-Dade also has Florida’s third-highest rate of private school attendance. So while more than 40 percent of Sunshine State students choose options other than their zoned public school, the South Florida district is in another league.

If the 215,000-plus students attending public schools of choice in Miami-Dade County counted as a separate district, that district would be roughly the eighth-largest in the country, and third-largest in the state.

Over the past five years, the district has added hundreds of new career academies, magnet programs and other public school choice options. It’s adding more programs in the coming school year — with specialties ranging from cybersecurity to sports management — so the number of choice students is likely to keep rising.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho famously said a couple years ago: “Rather than complain about the incoming tsunami of choice, we’re going to ride it.” It’s a tsunami of parent and student demand that’s only surging in one direction.

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