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School Choice Forces Florida Public School Shutdowns, DeSantis’ Officials Blame Districts

As more and more school districts in Florida are weighing school closures amid the popularity of the state’s school system, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ officials suggest public schools are struggling because they are not innovating.

POLITICO recently reported that the popularity of the school choice program in the state is squeezing the funding of public schools, and now some of the largest school districts are facing enrollment declines. Districts in Broward, Duval, and Miami-Dade counties have seen enrollment drops totaling approximately 53,000 students since the 2019-20 school year. This decline is prompting local leaders to consider closing and repurposing schools to cut costs.

However, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ officials have suggested that public schools are to blame for the enrollment decline.

“FL has made it easy for a failing public school to convert to charter. Public will always be there, but now they have to actually perform well,” wrote Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ Communications Director. “Education should be like anything: good products flourish and bad products get replaced.”

Florida’s school choice programs are expanding rapidly, with more families opting for charter schools, homeschooling, and state-funded scholarships for private education.

However, as these programs grow, traditional public schools are struggling with declining enrollment. For instance, Broward County has over 49,000 empty classroom seats this year, leading officials to consider closing eight schools within the next two years.

“You’ve seen these reports of some districts having to close schools — that’s how this works,” Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said in a Board of Education meeting. “But what they need to do is continue to innovate and provide programming that is attractive to parents so, on that open competition, they have the best option for those parents to choose.”

Education leaders express concern about the long-term impact of school closures, such as students having to travel further to new campuses and communities losing long-established schools.

“Here we saw today, the commissioner of education basically celebrating that public schools are being closed. That’s not OK,” Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association teachers union, said.

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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