Earlier this year, Florida joined a growing list of states with universal school choice programs—meaning any student in the state can access a portion of the money the state spends on their education and use those tax dollars to homeschool, attend a private school, or do some sort of mixed-learning program.
Families have responded swiftly. As of this week, a hilarious hit piece hit the First Coast News website which spent the majority of its time hand wringing over the fact that nearly 10,000 students have left one school district in the state alone already.
“Parents are cashing in universal vouchers from the Florida Department of Education and enrolling their kids at private or specialized schools instead,” the outlet warned. “A declining enrollment means fewer dollars for classrooms in districts like Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties.”
If a school isn’t performing well it should lose students. It’s really hard to take people seriously who argue otherwise. Students whose families can’t afford educational alternatives (when they’re already being taxed to death to pay for public schools in the first place) should be stuck in failing government schools for what? So administrators who are sucking up our taxes don’t take a pay cut? SO the government doesn’t lose its monopoly on education and ability to indoctrinate and dumb down the nation’s future voters? Probably that last one.
National Democrats spend a great deal of time whining about monopolies in the private market, though they’ve yet to credibly point any out. Their usual targets like Facebook or Google are not even remotely without competitors. Yet when it comes to the true monopolies in our society, which are only really found within the public or at least heavily publicly-interfered with sector, they get a pass?
The government has been failing at public education for some time. And because it has been granted a monopoly over education it has no incentive to change—that is until now.
School choice programs just mean that schools have to actually compete for students again and offer a valuable product to do that. If they cannot, they should fold—why would we keep funding failed institutions, and even worse, working to trap poor people within them?
And it certainly does seem like the Duvall schools are failing to deliver right now. As of 2022, “Duval County’s fourth grade (math) scores declined the most for the county, declining by seven points while eighth grade math declined by five points” and “no score averages for Duval County, Florida, large schools, or public schools nationwide reach “proficient” on the test’s score scale for any category, nor have they since at least 2015, as far back as one chart shows.”
So it makes sense why families are fleeing in droves. And in response, the machine that has enabled the government monopoly on education for decades is in overdrive working to fear-monger Americans about what this means for the future of education.
According to the First Coast News article, “The district still has to provide the same level of services, but for every child who leaves, the district loses thousands of dollars.” That’s somewhat misleading. They have to perform the same level of services for a far smaller group of students, so that will (or should) naturally cost less.
But what they aren’t telling you is the per-pupil public education pricing isn’t really about services provided. In the US, we spend an astronomical amount of education while consistently getting diminishing returns. The national average is $15,000 per year per kid—far higher than the tuition of many private schools—and yet most of that is not making it into teachers’ salaries or into the classroom at all where parents are asked to buy more and more supplies each year. Instead it’s going to administrators, to regulators, and to contract services that schools pay tons of money to to outsource their hiring, food services, and curriculums.
All of those people have been getting rich off the public system even as the average kid gets dumber. That’s the gravy train coming to an end and they’re desperate to keep it running.
In fact, Florida schools are already attempting to get more money from the government for their budget next year, even as students leave their schools. The Florida Education Association requested the “legislature increase the education budget by $2.5 billion dollars next year because 90 percent of kids in Florida still attend public schools.”
K-12 spending per pupil in Florida is about $11,773 whereas the school choice program gives families access to around $8000. That means the people leaving are not only accessing better education options in the state, they’re finding options that are more affordable and efficient than the public schools too.
The reality is that when a kid does exit public schools under school choice, a portion of the public spending actually does stay in the school. That means the schools ultimately get more money per pupil, so they have little to complain about. While I wish this meant bad schools just had to shut down, the truth is they’ll keep getting more chances.
Let’s hope Duvall schools use that extra money to get their act together. Fortunately students won’t be trapped there while they figure themselves out in the process though.