Florida’s Catholic schools see across-the-board enrollment increases

Catholic school students
Students at St. Lawrence Catholic School in Tampa brought their bright smiles and are ready to start the school year.

School is back in session for Catholic schools across all seven dioceses in Florida.

This year, each of them is seeing another enrollment increase.

This broad, widespread enrollment growth is part of a longer-term trend that makes Florida stand out on the national landscape.

In a recent report published by Step Up For Students, only 10 states showed growth in Catholic school enrollment over the past decade. Of those 10, Florida is the only state with a significant number of students enrolled in Catholic schools.

These numbers may continue to change as some schools are still enrolling new students, but here is a preliminary look at year-over-year enrollment growth by diocese.

Diocese of Venice – 8%

Diocese of Palm Beach – 6%

Diocese of St. Augustine – 5%

Archdiocese of Miami – 3.5%

Diocese of St. Petersburg – 3.5%

Diocese of Orlando – 3%

Diocese of Pensacola/Tallahassee – 2%

Katie Kervi, Assistant Superintendent for the Diocese of Palm Beach, said that over the last three years enrollment in the diocese’s schools has grown by at least 6%.

“We are excited to see our schools flourishing and look forward to welcoming new students and families into our community,” she said. “Our Catholic schools provide a faith-based education paired with high academic standards.  I believe the consistent increases in enrollment can be attributed to these strong foundations and because all families now have the opportunity to choose the educational environment that is best for their children.”

Legislation that went into effect on July 1 made the state’s Family Empowerment Scholarships available to all students who are eligible for K-12 public education.

Alina Mychka’s daughter was awarded a scholarship for the 2023-24 school year by Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog.

Her child started the year at Holy Family Catholic School in Jacksonville, and she says she is thankful she can send her child to a safe environment with a rigorous curriculum that reinforces her values.

Mychka immigrated to America from Ukraine eight years ago. She sends any extra dollars her family can spare back to her relatives in their war-ravaged home country.

Without the scholarship, she says, Catholic school would likely not be an option for her family.

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BY Lauren May

Lauren May is director of advocacy at Step Up for Students. A former teacher, early childhood director and principal, she was honored with the University of Florida's Outstanding Young Alumni award in 2018. She lives in Jacksonville, Fla., with her husband and two children. She can be reached at (904) 416-0643 or lmay@sufs.org.