Florida Catholic school enrollment boosted by stellar academics, strong faith foundation and expanded education choice scholarships



Enrollment in Florida’s Catholic schools, which rebounded slightly last year after a pandemic dip in 2020-21, is now the highest it’s been in more than a decade. Figures released this week by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops show total enrollment at 88,031, an increase of 4.5% from last year and 3.1% from pre-pandemic numbers.

The total enrollment is now higher than it was in the 2008-09 school year, though less than its peak of 95,000 in 2005-06.

The rise in Catholic school enrollment also paralleled the Legislature’s $200 million expansion of state education choice scholarships. HB 7045 granted scholarship access to tens of thousands more students.

Billed as the largest expansion of education choice in Florida history, the law merged the state’s two scholarship programs for students with unique abilities and combined them with the Family Empowerment Scholarship program approved in 2019. The law also made it easier for families to qualify by removing the requirement that students must spend the prior year in a district school and expanded eligibility to dependents of active-duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Lawmakers followed up in 2022 with laws that granted automatic eligibility to dependents of law enforcement officers regardless of income.


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BY Lisa Buie

Lisa Buie is senior reporter for NextSteps. The daughter of a public school superintendent, she spent more than a dozen years as a reporter and bureau chief at the Tampa Bay Times before joining Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, where she served for nearly five years as marketing and communications manager. She lives with her husband and their teenage son, who has benefited from education choice.