A local example of school choice growth

The school district in Pasco County, Fla. is as good a place as any to check in for quick, local snapshot of the education transformation underway in the Sunshine State.

Student enrollment ticked up a tad this year for the district’s traditional public schools, but it jumped markedly for charter schools and private schools accepting tax credit scholarships.

According to the Tampa Bay Times this week, Florida’s 11th biggest school district counts 64,023 students at this point in the school year, up 178 from last year. Meanwhile, the number of charter school students reached 2,215 – up 253 from last year.

For one private learning option, the trend line is even steeper (in part because the overall numbers are much smaller). In 2010-11, 311 students in Pasco used tax-credit scholarships to attend private schools, according to Step Up For Students data. Last year, there was 484. As of yesterday, there was 607.

Statewide, the number of tax-credit scholarships has topped 48,000 so far this year, up from 40,249 last year. Among the state’s 12 biggest districts, Pasco’s year-to-year increase of 25 percent ranks third, behind Polk (30 percent) and Palm Beach (29 percent) and ahead of Miami-Dade (22 percent).

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at rmatus@stepupforstudents.org or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at facebook.com/redefinedonline.