Once again, charter schools dominate Florida’s education choice landscape

The 11th National School Choice Week celebration kicked off Monday as various organizations, schools, parents and students celebrate educational opportunities in their own unique way. RedefinED celebrates School Choice Week by releasing its 12th annual Florida Changing Landscapes document.

This most recent document, created from Florida Department of Education data, reveals that more than 1.5 million K-12 Florida students participated in school choice during the 2019-20 school year.

This year’s Changing Landscape is a little different than past years.  Last year, we saw nearly 1.7 million PK-12 students participating in some form of school choice in the Sunshine State. A detailed breakdown of Florida’s VPK program enrollment, the state’s largest voucher program with around 171,000 students, wasn’t available at the time of publication.

This year, we examined only K-12 school choice programs. Where applicable, such as with private school-private pay or the Gardiner Scholarship, pre-K students have been removed from the count.  Likewise, Gardiner Scholarship students who are enrolled in home education programs have been removed from the home education count.

As was the case last year, charter schools dominate the top spot with 329,216 students enrolled. Various public school options, such as magnet schools, career and professional academies and open enrollment continue to dominate the landscape. School choice programs offered by public school districts enrolled more than 717,000 students last year, which means there are more students enrolled in public school choice programs than there are public school students in 24 other states.

Overall, growth in school choice was modest in the 2019-20 school year, adding just 25,000 students for 0.9% growth over the prior year.

The Gardiner Scholarship program, administered by Step Up for Students, the nonprofit that hosts this blog, grew by 17%. Virtual education grew by 15% and Advanced International Certificate of Education programs grew by 14%.

Home education proved to be another popular option, exceeding 101,000 students, a growth of nearly 11% over the prior year. 

Career and Professional Academies and Choice and Magnet Programs saw enrollment decline by 6% and 5%, respectively. Private pay students attending private schools shrunk by 3.5%. But thanks in large measure to Florida’s scholarship programs, total K-12 enrollment in Florida’s private schools grew by 5%.

The 2019-20 school year ended amidst a global pandemic that shook public education well into the new year. Nationally, both charter school and private school enrollment grew by 3% while home education grew by 2%.

You can view last year’s Florida Changing Landscapes document here.

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BY Patrick R. Gibbons

Patrick Gibbons is public affairs manager at Step Up for Students and a research fellow for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. A former teacher, he lived in Las Vegas, Nev., for five years, where he worked as an education writer and researcher. He can be reached at (813) 498.1991 or emailed at pgibbons@stepupforstudents.org. Follow Patrick on Twitter: at @PatrickRGibbons and @redefinEDonline.

One Comment

George Thomas

Step Up For Student is a God sent help for parents like me who cannot afford paying school fees by self.

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