Percentage of low-income students in Florida continues to rise

From the better-late-than-never file:

The percentage of Florida students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch rose for the fifth straight year last year to 57.6 percent, according to the state Department of Education.

In total, 1.54 million of the state’s 2.69 million students were eligible, marking the third straight year a majority of Florida students reached that threshold, says a report posted on the DOE web site over the summer (I stumbled on the latest numbers over the weekend, and as far as I can tell, no traditional news outlets have reported them).

The report shows 78.7 percent of black students were eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch last year, compared to 71.5 percent of Hispanic students and 38.2 percent of white students.

Among the state’s biggest districts, Miami-Dade led with the highest percentage, at 71.9 percent, followed by Polk at 68.3 percent and Lee at 64.2 percent.

Since the 2003-04 school year, Florida schools have also been majority minority. Last year, 57 percent of Florida students were minorities.

Despite the challenging demographics, Florida has over the past 10 to 15 years been among the leading states on key academic indicators, including progress on NAEP, performance on Advanced Placement tests and improvement in graduation rates.

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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 or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at