Florida is a leader in providing parental choice in education.
Public School Choice:
Florida offers families both inter-district and intra-district school choice within the public school system. Students attending a failing public school can transfer to a different public school that has a higher performance level. In addition, school districts can offer open enrollment on a voluntary basis.
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. Currently, there is a cap of $229 million that the state can spend on the scholarship program (which can be raised once 90% of that cap is fulfilled). With this amount, the state of Florida awards scholarships to about 51,000 students. The Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program, also known as "Step Up for Students," permits businesses to receive a tax credit for contributing to nonprofits, also known as Scholarship Funding Organizations (SFOs), that provide scholarships for low-income students to attend public or private schools. According to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, "there has been a 32% participation increase in Florida's tax-credit scholarship program since 2012.
The state also has a thriving charter school network. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in 2013 over 213,000 students were enrolled in Florida’s 583 charter schools.
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 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 highest online enrollments are found in Florida, with 150,000 students taking online courses. The Florida Virtual School had about 300,000 course enrollments in 2011-2012, 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.