Karen Hiltz: Florida’s Education Freedom: Is it a Mirage?

By Karen Hiltz

Looking at states that offer school choice options,‭ ‬Florida is a state that has legislated several programs.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬do these programs provide benefits for all families and children‭? ‬The quick answer is‭ ‬no because legislated programs are always targeted towards specific populations while interjecting limited or minimal dollars.

Florida Options

Families in Florida are better off than in most states when it comes to school choice options.‭ ‬Like all other states,‭ ‬parents can choose from the three primary groups:‭ ‬public,‭ ‬private,‭ ‬and homeschool.‭ ‬The‭ ‬Florida Department of Education website identifies six categories with the first listing the seven scholarship programs the state offers.‭ ‬The next two categories provide specific information relevant to private and charter schools including directories that allow parents to quickly search by the school district.‭ ‬Another category–Other Choice Options–provides homeschool information along with some nuanced programs that fall under the purview of public education.‭ ‬The Virtual Education category addresses what Florida offers for those parents interested in this option.‭ ‬Overall,‭ ‬the website provides information and is rather easy to navigate.

However,‭ ‬these programs are created based on the legislative process,‭ ‬which often takes years.‭ ‬That’s one reason why there seems to be a disconnect between what parents are seeking,‭ ‬what they know‭ ‬and what they understand.‭ ‬Following legislation,‭ ‬then wading through state statutes can be challenging for those who live and breathe policy.‭ ‬For working parents who are trying to find an educational environment that best meets the needs of their child,‭ ‬it is more often than not an overwhelming venture.