Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Florida School Districts Expanding School Choice

Great things are happening in Florida:

Florida’s new education commissioner is known for his zealous support of charter schools and vouchers and other learning options that some critics see as anti-public school.

But on Tuesday afternoon, Tony Bennett sat next to Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia inside a Tampa magnet school for boys, and praised the growth of choice in district schools across the state.

…Tuesday’s event was sponsored by the Florida Alliance for Choices in Education, a coalition that includes a wide swath of school choice groups. Bennett and Elia sat on a panel with representatives from home-schoolingvirtual education, magnet schools, career academies, 

Most were parents who had lived and breathed school choice, starting with their own children. As they shared stories of searching for schools that practiced their faith or fit their child’s academic needs, they offered numbers that shed light on the choice movement’s impact.

About 43 percent of students in Florida now go to a school other than the one they’re zoned for, according to Florida Department of Education data. That includes more than 240,000 in magnet schools, 200,000 in charter schools, 137,000 in career academies and 50,000 who use tax credit scholarships to help pay private school tuition. (The latter program is administered by Step Up For Students, which is a member of FACE and co-hosts this blog.)

“The Florida choice framework is one of a national model,’’ Bennett said. “It’s one where a state has embraced the social justice of providing all children an opportunity to go to school and live the American Dream.’’

Here’s commentary by John Kirtley:

This forum shows what is possible with an enlightened public school superintendent and progressive school choice laws.  As you can read in the article, we are rapidly approaching a “new definition” of public education in Florida. Under the “old definition”, we raised taxpayer dollars to educate kids and handed it all over to districts, who operated all the school in a fairly uniform manner and assigned kids to them by their zip code. Under the “new definition”, parents direct taxpayer dollars to the learning environment that best suits their children’s needs. They choose from various providers, and even from different delivery methods. They even combine more than one method or provider at the same time.

Hopefully someday we will be able to have such a forum in every district in Florida. And in every state in the country.

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