Office of the President releases new data on education choice

Percentage distribution of students age 5 through 17 attending kindergarten through 12th grade by school type, 1999 and 2016

The percentage of students accessing schools of choice has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, with growth coming from the expansion of both public and private school choice options, according to a new report from the Council of Economic Advisers.

Among the findings of the council, an agency within the Executive Office of the President charged with offering the President objective economic advice on the formulation of domestic and international economic policy:

Private school scholarships have grown considerably, but still make up a small portion of the K-12 student population, with 539,000 students utilizing tax-credit scholarships, vouchers or education savings accounts to enroll in private schools.

With the inclusion of public options, more than 5.8 million students were enrolled in charter and magnet schools in 2016, the latest available public school data. That figure was up from about 1.5 million students enrolled in charter and magnet schools in 2000.

Importantly, the number of students attending their assigned public school dropped from 74.1% to 68.8% between 1999 and 2016. In Florida, 54.8 percent of K-12 students attended assigned public schools in 2018-19, the most recent figure available.

Public choice schools grew by 4.3 percentage points and home education grew by 1.6 percentage points. Though private school scholarships have grown considerably, private school enrollment has dropped 0.8 percentage points nationwide.

The report’s authors conclude that expanding choice options could help low-income and minority students. Florida already is a national leader on that front, with 41% of students attending schools of choice in 2018-19, the latest data available.

The state’s most popular options include charter schools, open enrollment, magnet schools and career academies enrolling more than 600,000 students, about half of all choice students in the state. By comparison, only about 152,000 students utilized scholarships to attend private schools in Florida.

With the inclusion of 237,200 students attending private schools through private pay, more than 45% of Florida students attend schools of choice.