Choice Is Key to Cutting Florida Dropout Rate

Published December 1, 2007

Many people are stunned to learn that less than 50 percent of minority children graduate high school in Florida.

According to the Harvard Civil Rights Project, a black male in Florida has a 38 percent chance of graduating–and statewide, only 57 percent of children of all races and incomes will do so.

Few would question the fact that life prospects for dropouts are bleak; most are consigned to a life of low wages, prison, or even an early death from violent crime. By any measure this is a crisis.


The dropout rate is one of Florida’s most serious problems. All possible solutions need to be on the table:

  • There are programs in the public schools–such as extended hours and more time in core classes–that are working to solve this problem. These need to be expanded.
  • There are heroes in the public schools reaching children and preventing them from dropping out. They need to be supported and encouraged.
  • Empowering low-income parents to choose the right schools also works. Thousands of parents and children will give you their testimony of its success.

Florida needs uniformity of educational opportunity, not uniformity of education providers. We need Florida’s legislators, educators, opinion leaders–even judges–to understand this critical fact.

John F. Kirtley ([email protected]) is vice chairman of the Alliance for School Choice and a member of the board of directors at The James Madison Institute in Florida and the Goldwater Institute in Arizona. A longer version of this article was published in October 2007 as Policy Brief 2 by The James Madison Institute.