School choice and district deregulation go together

The median American parent in the United States supports their local public schools and wants access to alternatives for their children.

Abstract debates about school choice tend ignore this basic reality.

But it’s one reason why the legislation that expanded Florida’s school choice programs also kicked off an effort to cut red tape for school districts.

In a recent essay published by The Capitolist, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, who championed the deregulation effort, explained the goal:

Here in the free state of Florida, we can all be proud to lead the nation in options for parents to select the education environment best suited to their children’s individual learning needs, unhindered by income or zip code. And, we can all play an important role in keeping the traditional, neighborhood public schools that have served our communities and families for generations a great option for Florida students.

The question now is whether this deregulation will improve on past efforts that created limited pockets of freedom inside districts or took outdated rules off the books without material changing the day-to-day reality in most schools. The new era of universal choice is the right time to free the districts.

Go deeper: Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute describes how most parents see things.

Today, for instance, more than three-quarters of parents say that they were satisfied with their child’s experience in a public district school even as more than 7 in 10 endorse education savings accounts, school vouchers, and charter schools. In short, parents overwhelmingly like both their child’s public school and school choice policies. They don’t see a tension here.

How can we reconcile parental support for more choices with affection for their local public schools? It’s not hard, really. Parents want options. They may want alternatives when it comes to scheduling, school safety, or instructional approach. They want to be able to protect their kids from bullies or from school practices they find troubling. At the same time, they can value schools as community anchors, want to minimize how much time their kids spend in transit, and like their kids’ teachers.

The balance between choice and regulation has been a consistent theme on this blog. Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill has argued that as families gain access to more options, schools should face less top-down regulation.

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BY Travis Pillow

Travis Pillow is Director of Thought Leadership at Step Up For Students and editor of NextSteps. He lives in Sanford, Fla. with his wife and two children. A former Tallahassee statehouse reporter, he most recently worked at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research organization at Arizona State University, where he studied community-led learning innovation and school systems' responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. He can be reached at tpillow (at)