Charter schools continue to rule Florida’s education choice landscape

Started in 2011, National School Choice Week has grown into the world’s largest celebration of opportunity in education. Over the past decade, more than 131,000 NSCW events have been planned across the country.

As the 10th annual National School Choice Week celebration kicks off, Step Up For Students unveils its 11th annual “Changing Landscapes” infographic, a document that explores student enrollment in public and private school choice options statewide for the 2018-19 school year.

Some key findings:

·       48.2 percent of preK-12 students attend a school of choice, up from 47.5 percent last year

·       40.7 percent of K-12 students are utilizing a publicly funded school choice option

·       The Gardiner Scholarship program saw a 35 percent increase from 10,258 to 13,884 students

Retaining the top spot for the second year in a row as the most popular school choice option are charter schools, with 309,730 students, representing a 6.1 percent increase. For the first time, charters have exceeded the 300,000-student mark.

District-run choice options such as open enrollment, which increased by 4.1 percent, and magnet schools are in second and third place, respectively, with 273,377 and 248,199 students each.

The Gardiner Scholarship program for children with unique abilities, which allows students to complete private school or home education programs, grew by 35 percent. Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program declined 3.7 percent between 2017-18 and 2018-19 following an all-time record high the previous year, while the McKay Scholarship program declined by 1.1 percent.

Despite a slight decline in the number of students using private scholarship programs, the number of private pay private school students grew by 12,257 students, or 5.4 percent.

Data for Florida’s largest voucher program, Voluntary Prekindergarten, was unavailable for the 2018-19 school year; the document reflects the latest data available from the 2017-18 school year.

As in past years, the Changing Landscapes document attempts to remove duplicate student counts when possible. For example, while the Florida Department of Education reported 313,586 students enrolled in charter schools, that figure includes 1,413 students enrolled in the Florida Atlantic University Lab Schools District and 2,443 students at the Florida State University School District. The document’s authors wished to include all university-affiliated lab and charter schools as one option and removed those students from the charter school count.

Additionally, the Department completed a custom data request to remove the number of students enrolled in what it categorizes as Career and Professional Academies at district-run public schools who already were counted as being enrolled in other types of public schools of choice.

This year, one minor tweak was made in the Changing Landscapes methodology. Since the Gardiner Scholarship allows for students to attend private schools or home education programs, the number of students enrolled in each was based on spending data. This allowed for the removal of duplicates already counted in home education or private school enrollment.

Overall, preK-12 student population statewide increased by 1.8 percent in 2018-19.

To compare the 2018-19 Changing Landscapes document to the 2017-18 document, click here.