Florida sets new education choice records as 1.7 million students choose

A record-setting 1.7 million K-12 students in Florida attended a school of choice last year, an increase of more than 42,000 over the year prior.  

In all, 49% of Florida’s K-12 students attended an option other than their assigned neighborhood school in 2022-23. 

Private school, charter school and home education enrollments also reached record levels.  

Florida has been a national leader in public school choice with robust charter schools, statewide virtual schools, open enrollment, magnet schools and career academies and even scholarships to attend private schools PreK-12th grade. Today, these choices are available to all students, regardless of income or ability. 

As with last year, charter schools remain the most popular school of choice with 382,367 students in 2022-23.  

Public school district options hold four of the top ten spots, with open enrollment and magnet schools taking the no. 2 and no. 3 spots, respectively. To complete the annual Changing Landscapes report, Step Up For Students utilized enrollment data from the Florida Department of Education. Where possible, we took steps to eliminate duplications in data. 

For example, the Changing Landscape numbers subtract students using the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities to pay for home education expenses from the count of students enrolled in home education. Likewise, students attending private schools with the help of education choice scholarships are subtracted from the enrollment count for private schools. 

The number of students using UA scholarships includes some students who have been identified for special education services but are too young to enroll in Kindergarten. 

As a result of these adjustments, home education declined by about 17,000 students to 135,372. There is no cause for alarm, however. Officially, Florida’s home education enrollment increased by 2,000 students, achieving yet another all-time high, but the number of home education students funded through the Unique Abilities scholarship program also increased. These students were counted as Unique Abilities scholarship enrollments instead of home education.  

The number of students attending private schools paying private tuition declined about 10,000, to 162,413. When including scholarship students, K-12 private school enrollment increased by around 23,000. 

In all, more than 258,000 students received a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC), Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES), or Hope Scholarship to support their private school education.  

It is also worth noting that 9,661 students attended different public schools thanks to state and Federal school transfer scholarships such as the public-school component of the Hope Scholarship for students who are victims of bullying, the transportation scholarships under the Florida Tax Credit and Family Empowerment Scholarships, the Opportunity Scholarship, and No Child Left Behind. 

The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Education Options (FES-EO) and tax credit programs were converted to universal education savings accounts during the 2023 legislative session. Expect new enrollment records for the next Changing Landscape in 2025.  

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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.

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