Florida is a leader in providing parental choice in education.
Public School Choice:
Florida offers families school choice within the public school system. Students assigned to failing public schools can transfer to a higher-performing public school. In 2007-2008, over 1,300 students took advantage of the public school choice option. In addition, school districts can offer open enrollment on a voluntary basis. The state also has a thriving charter school network. According to the Center for Education Reform, as of 2010, over 150,000 students were enrolled in Florida’s 483 charter schools.
Private School Choice:
Florida offers private school choice to special-needs and low-income students. The John McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program offers vouchers to special-needs students. In 2009, more than 20,000 children received McKay Scholarships. The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program permits businesses to receive a tax credit for contributing to scholarships for low-income students. In 2009, more than 32,000 students received a scholarship as a result of the tax credit.
Florida is a pioneer in K-12 online learning. According to Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning, its state-led program, the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), is the biggest state virtual school in the nation. As of 2011, all districts provide both full- and part-time online learning options for PK–12 grade students through district virtual instruction programs (VIP). The Florida Virtual Academy and the Florida Connections Academy are two full-time online schools enrolling students in grades K-8. The Florida Virtual School had nearly 260,000 course enrollments in 2010-2011, and 56 school districts currently offer online courses through FLVS.
In 2011, Governor Rick Scott signed legislation to enact five new school choice laws. The bills: (1) allow students to more easily transfer from a failing public school to a higher performing public school; (2) allow high-performing charter schools to more readily expand by allowing them to add more grades or open more branches without the approval of the local school board; (3) expand the eligibility of students who can participate in the McKay Scholarship program for special needs students; (4) gives an increased tax credit to corporations that participate in the Tuition Tax-Credit Program; and (5) allows the Florida Virtual School to offer courses to elementary school students.
Click here for detailed information about Florida's public schools. See below for Florida school choice contacts and a detailed history of school choice in Florida.