Students Already Fleeing Failing Schools

Published May 1, 2000

Under a private school choice program, the loss of just 53 Florida public school students to private schools served as a wake-up call for improvement to public schools throughout the state.

By contrast, under a public school choice program in one county, the loss of thousands of students to other public schools triggered a year-long effort to redraw attendance boundaries for the schools.

According to a recent demographic study, 50,300 Broward County students–more than one in five–attend a public school outside their own neighborhood. In communities with schools in danger of being rated failing by the state, the out-of-neighborhood enrollment rate is twice that. In the neighborhood surrounding Fort Lauderdale’s Parkway Middle School–rated “D” under Florida’s A+ Plan for grading schools–56 percent of students have voted with their feet and picked another school.

Under a liberal school choice plan the Broward County district adopted four years ago, parents may choose any school that has room for their child as long as they provide their own transportation. District officials estimate that some 8,000 of the 50,300 choice students are taking advantage of this policy, with most of the others taking advantage of the district’s magnet schools, which now make up one-quarter of all schools in the district.