Every child deserves an education that prepares them for a successful and fulfilling life. Unfortunately, far too many children are assigned to schools that don’t fit their unique needs and learning styles.

Empowering parents with the resources to choose the school that best meets the individual needs of their child is the most local form of school accountability.

Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, Florida public school students have access to universal public school choice – meaning that families can choose schools outside their school zone or even across district lines as long as the school is not at capacity. Each school district is required to post information on how to choose a different school.

Florida is also home to the largest K-12 tax credit scholarship programs and education scholarship account programs in the nation.

Charter 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.

More than 295,000 students attend one of Florida’s more than 650 public charter schools. Florida charter schools are proving to be one of the fastest growing and academically effective sectors in American education. Read ExcelinEd’s Florida Charter School Growth Performance report for more information.

The Florida Department of Education produced a comprehensive analysis in May 2017, comparing the performance of public charter students with those in traditional public schools in the 2015-16 school year. The data revealed that Florida 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.

Education Scholarship Accounts (Gardiner Scholarship Program)

Through an Education Scholarship Account (ESA) program, parents can sign up to have their child’s education funding deposited into an account that they can use to pay for private school tuition, online courses, tutoring, special education services, curriculum, dual enrollment, and many other state-authorized uses. By providing access to a range of educational options, ESAs empower families with the ability to create a customized education plan that maximizes a child’s natural learning abilities.

In Florida, more than 10,000 students with special needs were able to participate in the Gardiner Scholarship program during the 2017-18 school year. The program is expected to serve an additional 2,300 students next year thanks to the legislature’s approved funding increase for the program. To see if your child qualifies for the program, visit Gardiner Scholarship Program.

Home Education

More than 87,000 Florida students participate in home education programs. To participate, parents enroll their home education program with their local school district. Each year, home education students must take one of five academic evaluation options and the results must be submitted to the district school superintendent. To learn more, visit Home Education.

McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities

The McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities allows families to choose the best educational setting—public or private—for their children with special needs. More than 30,000 eligible students with special needs participate in the McKay Scholarship Program during the 2017-18 school year. To see if your child qualifies for the program, visit McKay Scholarship Program Eligibility Requirements.

Tax Credit Scholarship Program

Tax Credit Scholarship programs incentives individuals and businesses to donate to nonprofit organizations that provide tuition scholarships to eligible students. When making donations, donors receive a tax credit from the state—often a 100 percent, dollar-for-dollar credit. Through this process, tax-credit scholarship programs use entirely private funds to offer private school scholarships to families.

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. To see if your child qualifies for the program, visit Florida Tax Credit Scholarship.

Virtual Education

Florida is a nationally-recognized leader in K-12 virtual education, with the largest state virtual school in the nation – Florida Virtual School. Students can also participate in their school district’s virtual education programs,

Florida’s online education programs provide high quality instruction and curriculum, meeting national and state standards. The programs must also meet the state’s accountability standards for academic achievement. Visit the Florida Department of Education’s Virtual Education Statistics for additional information.

Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK)

Through Florida’s VPK Program, scholarships are available to every 4 year old in the state to receive free prekindergarten education. VPK gives each child an opportunity to perform better in school and throughout life, with quality programs that include age-appropriate curricula with a strong emphasis on early literacy skills, accountability, manageable class sizes and qualified instructors. Parents can choose from one of several program options available from private and public providers.

During the 2017-18 school year, more than 160,000 Florida children enrolled in the VPK Program. To learn more about this program, visit Florida VPK Program.