How Florida stacks up on private school choice

Travis Pillow

Florida is home to one in six of the nation’s students using a voucher to attend a private school, more than a third of those using tax credit scholarships, and just shy of 70 percent of all students using education savings accounts.

Those stats come from The ABCs of School Choice, the most comprehensive rundown of private educational options in the country.

EdChoice released the latest version of its annual report Tuesday, and it shows Florida remains one of the national leaders in private school —choice  especially for low-income and economically disadvantaged students.

Serving more than 30,000 students with special needs, McKay Scholarships are the nation’s second-largest voucher program. They were recently overtaken by Indiana’s means-tested voucher program.

Graph via EdChoice

Graph via EdChoice

Florida’s Gardiner Scholarships*, also for students with special needs, comprise the nation’s largest education savings account program. A potent rival — Nevada’s ESAs, which could soon be available to nearly all students — was sidelined by a court challenge and remains in legislative limbo.

Graph via EdChoice

Graph via EdChoice

The Sunshine State’s tax credit scholarship program*, which just survived a legal challenge of its own, remains the single-largest private school choice program in the country, serving nearly 98,000 low-income and working class students.

Florida’s school choice heft is partially a function of its size. It’s the third-largest state in the country. Arizona’s four different tax credit programs awarded a combined 63,923 scholarships this school year, which means their combined enrollment is proportionately larger, in a state with far fewer K-12 students. Factor in public school options, and the two Sun Belt states remain top rivals for expanding educational choice.

One interesting contrast: Most of the scholarship programs in Arizona are open to all, or nearly all, K-12 students. Eligibility for Florida’s programs tends to be limited to key disadvantaged groups.

The EdChoice report is packed with other interesting tidits. (Did you know Maine and Vermont both have school voucher programs, of a sort, that date back to the 19th century?) Check out the whole thing here.

*Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer Florida’s Gardiner and tax credit scholarship programs.

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1 comment

Anonymous January 25, 2017 - 10:32 pm

During the confirmation for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, my ears hurt hearing Sen. Hassan misquote the effectiveness of the McKay Scholarship. Thousands of parents are pleased with the education their child(ren) are receiving. This data shamefully shows that Sen. Hassan was wrong.

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