Florida moves on school choice

On March 27, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed H.B. 1, which eliminates financial eligibility limits and allows all Florida students the opportunity to attend the school that best fits their educational needs, whether that be a public, private, or charter school.

According to DeSantis, "Florida is number one when it comes to education freedom and education choice, and today's bill-signing represents the largest expansion of education choice in the history of these United States.  When you combine private scholarships, charter schools, and district choice programs, Florida already has 1.3 million students attending a school of their choosing."

"These programs have been instrumental in elevating student achievement over the past twenty years," DeSantis added.

As a former public school teacher, I wholeheartedly agree with DeSantis's decision to offer unencumbered educational freedom to all Floridians.

After years of teaching in several public schools, I can personally attest to the fact that the vast majority of these institutions exist to primarily serve adults, not children.

This sad state of affairs was made all the more evident over the past three years, when the overwhelming majority of public schools decided to shut down for in-person learning and instead offered remote learning as the only option to millions of public-school students.

Of course, as Americans saw with increasing exasperation as the months rolled by, the complete opposite scenario was taking place in non-public schools, which managed to stay open for in-person learning through the pandemic.

No wonder school choice has become such a hot-button issue and its popularity among all Americans, regardless of which side of the political aisle they adhere to, is higher than ever.  In fact, school choice is one of the few issues that receives ample support across demographic, racial, generational, and even socio-economic lines, which is saying a lot, considering our hyper-divisive current political environment.

But when one puts his partisan hat aside, it makes total sense that school choice has shot to the top of the list of Americans' priorities. 

Most Americans understand that a solid education is the ticket to success in life.  Moreover, a substantial segment of the population is well aware that our nation's public schools are failing to properly educate millions of students, let alone keep them safe.

More and more, Americans are coming to the conclusion that our public education system, once the envy of the world, has devolved into a cesspool of corruption and incompetence.

Simultaneously, they have watched as our nation's rich and powerful ruling class have excused their children from attending ill-performing public schools in favor of elite private schools.  In other words, according to our overlords, the fix is in: school choice for me, but not for thee.

However, in recent years, the school choice debate has been turned on its head, thanks to the incredibly audacious overreach perpetuated by public school bureaucrats and their teacher union minions.

Although school choice alone cannot reverse the damage done by the public education industrial complex over the past few decades, it at least throws a much-needed wrench into the system.

Fortunately, the tide seems to be shifting, as Americans are demanding an equal shot in the education sweepstakes.

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.org) is editorial director at The Heartland Institute.

Image: Brian J. Matis.

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