Guide to School Choice in Florida

By: National School Choice Week Team

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

Florida is a national leader in providing parents a diverse array of school choices. So, if you’re a parent in Florida, you have access to more K-12 education options than you might realize. Knowing and navigating these options can help you find a school where your child’s personality, gifts, and academic strengths flourish. 

Florida families can choose from six main types of schools: traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

Florida celebrates school choice week

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Florida Traditional Public Schools

Most children in Florida (and in America) attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free, open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by taxpayers like you. Did you know that Florida spends an average of $9,764 per public school pupil each year

Florida has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Florida, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. You can take advantage of this option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family. Traditional public schools aren’t all the same: They may differ in learning methods and one may just “feel different” than another to you. For instance, one traditional public school we talked to, Pahokee Elementary School, is distinguished by its International Baccalaureate curriculum and global focus. 

Florida Charter Schools

Families can also consider choosing one of Florida’s several hundred charter schools; these are tuition-free public schools that are allowed extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. Each public charter school has a charter that explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. Indian River Charter High School, for instance, provides unique training and opportunities for students interested in the performing arts. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a good old-fashioned lottery system is typically used to determine admittance. 

You can find more information on Florida’s many public charter schools here

Florida Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as engineering or the performing arts. At a magnet school, all the subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track. Florida has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state. So, these might be a good option if your kid learns best by focusing in on a subject he or she is passionate about. 

Florida Private Schools

Families can also choose private schools, nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Florida’s private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. While tuition may feel like a barrier, Florida has several scholarship programs. State-run programs extend to students in families with modest incomes, with an Individualized Education Plan, or victims of violence in public schools, in addition to a few other student groups. 

We enjoyed the opportunity to talk to teachers at Morning Star School, a Catholic school specializing in serving students with special needs. “We have kids with so many different gifts,” described Principal Jean Barnes.  “They have so many gifts and talents that never were uncovered before because the focus [before they came here] was so much on ‘you can’t read, you can’t read, you can’t read,’ that they weren’t able to develop all of the gifts that God gave them.” 

For another private school story, check out our interview with North Florida School of Special Education, “the happiest place on earth,” here

Florida Online Learning

Whether your child wants to accelerate his or her learning or needs a quieter environment in which to focus, you may be interested in giving virtual school a try. Any Florida student can take courses through Florida Virtual School, full time or part time, free of charge. Other free online learning options are also available, such as Florida Connections Academy and Florida Online School

Florida Homeschooling

Homeschooling is another school option in Florida and all other states. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home. As both technology and school choices have spread in Florida, homeschooling is an increasingly popular choice with more support than ever. 

Check here for resources about homeschooling specific to Florida and read the story of one mom who started a “microschool” (not quite homeschooling, but similar!) here

Education Resources for Florida Parents 

Florida families celebrate school choice week

School Choice Celebrations in Florida

National School Choice Week 2020 will take place January 26 – February 1, 2020. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Click here for ideas, inspiration, and more information! 

Florida will celebrate National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 4,992 events and activities across the state. Learn more about some of these celebrations at schoolchoiceweek.com/states/florida/.

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