Escape from New York to Florida for more efficient education spending

Matthew Ladner

The New York Post recently delivered a rather devastating comparison of New York, California, Florida and Texas on education spending. Since this is a Florida-based education blog and many New Yorkers move to Florida annually, let’s focus on the Sunshine and Empire states.

If you are a New Yorker, what can you say in response to this news other than “Ouch!” Despite spending well over twice as much per pupil, Florida has higher NAEP scores in three out of four of the regularly given NAEP exams. Alas, New Yorkers, the outlook is even worse once you look at trends, specifically eighth-grade reading scores by race/ethnicity, as illustrated in this chart.

In 1998, white students in New York were almost a grade level ahead of white students in Florida. Based on the last two NAEP exams, however, Florida held a slight lead. Hispanic students in the two states were tied in 1998, but in 2019, Hispanic students in New York were about a grade level behind their peers in Florida.

The same trends, although not represented in this chart, are evident for black and Asian students. Black students in Florida closed the gap with their New York peers after being a grade level behind in 1998. Asian students in Florida basically were tied with their peers in New York in 1998, but took a significant lead in 2019.

Perhaps you are a New Yorker and you consider teaching students how to read as an important part of K-12 education. You may be feeling a little crushed by the fact that other states are getting that job done better and more efficiently. Perhaps you are among those who would like a wide variety of public and private school options as featured in Step Up For Students’ annual Education Landscape document to help you find the right fit for your child. Our founders wisely created a system of federalism that allows citizens to match their policy and cultural preferences. Perhaps you should consider moving to Florida.

While the large and probably growing number of New Yorkers who want to become Floridians is obvious, the more subtle point from what I gather is that there is a small but vocal number of Floridians who would prefer the New York policy mix. If, for instance, you imagine that states are in a contest to spend the most per pupil and you aren’t overly concerned with results, then New York would be a destination state for you. This seems odd to me, but to each their own.

Given the huge number of moving trucks leaving New York for Florida, it would appear it’s relatively inexpensive to rent one to haul belongings from Florida to New York. After all, they’ve got to get the trucks back to New York for the next escapee, err, person wanting to move to Florida. The marginal cost of putting your stuff in the truck will be low. Once you arrive in New York, you can immediately begin to enjoy the benefits of high-spending and academic stagnation if you’re into that sort of thing.

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