Florida’s School Choice Boom Leads To Public School Closures As Parents Opt Out

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ aggressive push for school choice in Florida is bearing fruit, with tens of thousands of students flocking to private, charter and homeschooling options.

The governor’s emphasis on expanding school choice programs has been central to his vision for remaking Florida’s education system. DeSantis recently told attendees at the Florida Homeschool Convention in Kissimmee, “Florida has shown a blueprint, and we really can be an engine for that as other states work to adopt a lot of the policies that we’ve done.”

Many who have attached their own interests to that of children’s learning have criticized the push toward privatization. But supporters point out that competition creates the necessity for quality. “If your product is better, you’ll be fine,” said Chris Moya, a Florida lobbyist representing charter schools. “The problem is, they are a relic of the past — a monopolized system where you have one option. And when parents have options, they vote with their feet.”

The numbers speak for themselves. Since 2013, over 600 new private schools have opened in Florida, with about 120,000 students opting for private education over public. In 2023 alone, private school enrollment from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade increased by nearly 29,000 students compared to the previous year.

As more families embrace school choice, some of Florida’s largest school districts, including Duval, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, are experiencing significant enrollment declines. These districts account for more than a third of the roughly 68,000 privately enrolled students from 2019-2023.

Florida’s massive conservative majority has given DeSantis the ability to use Florida as a testing ground for policies desired by conservatives for decades. From moving away from failing education policy to challenging the Biden administration’s diversity pushes and open borders madness, Florida has the kind of citizenry that can make things happen with DeSantis leading the state.

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