Teachers are choosing schools, too

Parents aren’t the only ones driving the expansion of school choice. Growing numbers of teachers and principals are opting for alternative settings, too.

teachers and choice logoTheir voices should be a bigger part of the education debate. So, beginning Monday, we’re rolling out an occasional series of stories simply called, “Teachers and Choice.”

The stories aren’t hard to find, especially here in Florida. A full 43 percent of students in the Sunshine State now attend something other than their zoned schools. A slew of teachers are now teaching them there. In charter schools alone, the number of teachers has doubled in the past five years – to more than 10,000. Over the same span, the number in Florida Virtual School has tripled – to nearly 1,500.

One of my favorite high school teachers spent 30 years in public schools but now heads a private school in Jacksonville. When U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio visited a Christian school in Tampa the other day, he spoke to teachers who migrated from public to private. On the phone this week, I talked to a teacher in Tallahassee who switched to a charter despite less pay. The freedom to be creative, she said, more than made up for it.

The subject of Monday’s feature by redefinED’s Sherri Ackerman is Carlene Meloy, who works for Florida Virtual. I won’t spoil it by disclosing details, but this quote serves as a nice tease: “Now that I look back,” she said of her old school, “I realize I felt stuck.”

Just like parents, teachers offer myriad reasons for their choices. Along with the benefits, there are complications, tradeoffs, and unknowns. We’ll do our best to explore them.

You can help us. Let us know if you see issues in this realm that are worth spotlighting, or teachers and principals worth profiling. We also welcome guest posts that further this conversation. You can reach me at rmatus@sufs.org, and Sherri at sackerman@sufs.org.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director of Research & Special Projects 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).