School Choice Score: 89%
The John M. McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program is available to special needs students that have been enrolled in public school for at least one year. Florida’s other program, a tax credit scholarship, is income-based. There is a statewide cap of $289 million currently, which is allowed to increase annually with an automatic escalator clause. Florida is the second state to enact ESAs. The Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts allow parents of students with disabilities to receive a portion of their public funding deposited into a savings account for use for primary, secondary, or post-secondary education needs. In all, approximately 86,000 students are benefiting from school choice across the state. The state also permits parents some choices among traditional public schools within their district, but to move from one district to another requires the districts to agree to such transfers, limiting their options.
Charter Schools Score: 88%
Florida has the potential to have a very strong charter law, if only the state would allow independent authorizers. Currently, only school boards are allowed to authorize charters, and while growth has been consistent, problems have begun to arise. Over time, many boards have become increasingly critical of charter schools, restricting the ability of the charter sector to grow as robustly as demanded by parents. Having a university authorizer or even the state board as an authorizer would remedy that problem. In addition, the funding of charter schools in Florida has become increasingly inequitable.
Online Learning Score: 95%
Florida is home to the most online learners than any other state and Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is the nation’s largest public online course provider. Florida has made great strides in creating policies to support online and blended learning earning the second-highest ranking in online learning. During the past legislative session, Florida passed several key pieces of legislation relating to digital learning. Among those, SB 1514 increased flexibility in enrolling in virtual courses, clarified the reporting and funding processes, and supported the study of students’ technology needs.
- Source: Digital Learning Now!
Teacher Quality Score: 88%
These performance-based evaluations are used in all decisions regarding tenure (which no longer exists for new teachers), layoffs and teacher assignment. Seniority is no longer a factor in these decisions. Teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations are required to go on improvement plans, and if dismissed from their job, only have one opportunity to appeal. In 2011, the state enacted a law that created a large-scale performance pay system and does not permit automatic pay increases for time in service or advanced degrees.