Education choice isn’t just charter schools or private schools—it also includes open enrollment, magnet schools, International Bachelorette programs and career and professional academies. Education choice is about giving parents a variety of options for their children, and that’s where Florida excels.
Florida is home to the largest K-12 tax credit scholarship programs and education scholarship account programs in the nation. As of the 2017-18 school year, every Florida public school student has access to universal public school choice – meaning that families can choose schools outside their school zone or even across district lines.
Students participating in one of Florida’s 5 private education choice programs.
Charter school students in 661 public charter schools.
McKay Scholarships awarded to special-needs students.
Students in choice and magnet programs at district schools.
Public charter schools are tuition-free public schools open to all students and held to state academic and financial standards. Unlike traditional public schools, however, charter schools are run independently of school districts and, instead, operate under a performance contract with an authorizer (a district, the state, or another approved entity). In exchange for more operational autonomy, charter schools are held accountable for student success.
Student Achievement in Florida’s Charter Schools: A Comparison of the Performance of Charter School Students with Traditional Public School Students – A comprehensive analysis by Florida Department of Education comparing the performance of public charter students with those in traditional public schools illustrating public charter school students had higher grade-level performance, smaller achievement gaps among student subgroups and greater percentages of learning gains than their peers in district-run schools.
Florida Charter School Growth Performance – A report from ExcelinEd outlining how Florida charter schools are proving to be one of the fastest growing and academically effective sectors in American education.
Florida Department of Education’s Schools of Hope – In 2017, Florida lawmakers passed legislation to bring more high-impact charters to the Sunshine State by recruiting the nation’s most effective charter schools to serve Florida students in persistently low-performing school zones.
“Florida school choice has allowed my three kids to excel in different educational settings based on their individual learning styles and needs. Freedom to choose the school of your choice – be it home school, charter school, private school or public school, on-line or ‘brick and mortar’ – has allowed Florida to soar to the top in education! Funds should go toward our students’ success, wherever and how they learn!”
“My public charter school provided me with an obtainable career path and the correct tools and resources to succeed.”
“Because charter schools are tuition-free and open to all students based on a lottery system, my school was able to reflect the diverse community in our part of Broward County. Almost half of the students were Hispanic, reflecting South Florida’s large Hispanic community. Attending the same charter school my entire life not only gave me the chance to grow and prepare for college, but also learn in a diverse environment.”
“I’m overly prepared. Freshman year is supposed to be hard, but it’s really easy. It makes me realize I’ve been educated properly.”
“With the help of the Gardiner Scholarship, we were able to create a customized education plan for Nic. We found a licensed teacher specializing in learning differences who works with Nic in a one-on–one setting four times a week. Over the last year, she has been able to keep Nic learning, even as one technique seems to work one day and then not work the next.”
“And most important, let’s focus on what’s best for students. We shouldn’t care where they are educated if it’s a high-quality education that prepares them for success in school and in life. That’s a choice that should be easy to make for all of us.”
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Florida is home to five private education choice programs, plus the Reading Scholarship Account Program. Florida’s private choice programs include education scholarship accounts, vouchers and tax-credit scholarships.
Florida’s Gardiner Scholarship Program allows students with special needs an opportunity to receive an education savings account (ESA) funded by the state and administered by an approved scholarship funding organization. Parents can use the funds to pay for a variety of educational services, including private school tuition, tutoring, online education, home education, curriculum, therapy, postsecondary educational institutions in Florida and other defined educational services.
Florida’s John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program was enacted and launched in 1999, making it the nation’s first school voucher program for students with special needs. The Florida legislature expanded the program in 2000.
The newest program, the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program was enacted and launched in 2019. The program was created to alleviate the waitlist of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program while expanding school choice options for thousands of other low- and middle-income residents. It is Florida’s fifth school choice program and second operating voucher program. Students can keep their scholarships for their entire K-12 career, even if their parents’ family income rises above the income limit in later years or if the student moves to a different participating private school.
The application window for the Family Empowerment Scholarship program is currently open. To receive an official determination of eligibility, parents should contact one of Florida’s two scholarship funding organizations listed on the Florida Department of Education’s website at www.fldoe.org/fes.
Share information about the scholarship with your family, friends and on social media. If your child doesn’t qualify, ask your lawmaker to expand the program to your family by increasing the income limit and by removing the prior year of public school enrollment. Share your story with us on how the program will benefit your family.
The Hope Scholarship program allows purchasers of motor vehicles to contribute their vehicle sales tax to fund private school scholarships. Hope Scholarships may be used by students who are victims of bullying or are physically attacked in school. These students may also transfer to other public school districts. The program was enacted and launched in 2018.
This tax-credit scholarship program was enacted and launched in 2001 to serve students from low-income households. Of America’s school choice programs, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program is one of the largest in terms of student participation.
A recent study from the Urban Institute found that attending a private school with an Florida Tax Credit Scholarship increases a low-income student’s likelihood of enrolling in college by 15 percent. Furthermore, the longer students remain in the program the more likely they were to be enrolled in college.
A recent survey from EdChoice found that parents of students using the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program overwhelmingly value the program. The survey analyzed responses from more than 14,000 parents. More than nine in ten parents expressed satisfaction with the scholarship program and 89 percent of parents were satisfied with the school their child attends because of the scholarship.
The program served more than 107,000 students during the 2017-18 school year. The average household income for a family using the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship is $25,362, or 8.2 percent above poverty.
EdChoice maintains the most robust and updated database of private choice programs in the country. See the EdChoice website more details on enrollment, history, eligibility and more.