DeSantis’s Budget May Reduce Public School Choices in Florida


Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R-FL) school choice program has resulted in notable declines in public school enrollments, raising the possibility of campus closures as more families turn to private schools, charter schools, or homeschooling.

DeSantis plans to sign the state budget in early June, before fiscal 2025 starts on July 1. In his “Focus on Florida’s Future” budget proposal, he suggested $114 billion in state spending, indicating a reduction of over $4.6 billion from the current year’s budget.

This initiative enhances Florida’s educational investments by dedicating a record $27.8 billion to the K-12 public school system. The allocation includes the highest per-student investment ever and covers costs for over 274,000 students participating in Florida’s school choice program, the Family Empowerment Scholarship.

These programs align with DeSantis’s goals of restructuring Florida’s education system.

“The money follows the student and the family. It’s not embedded in a certain system or a certain framework,” DeSantis stated regarding school closures. “And so, the student and the family will be making those decisions.”

Since the 2019-20 academic year, around 53,000 students have left traditional public schools across several counties. This shift has prompted school administrators to consider campus closures.

Simultaneously, charter school enrollment has increased by more than 68,000 students statewide, as reported by the Florida Department of Education.

Private school enrollment grew from 397,970 students to 445,000 students during this period, according to the latest available state data.

Additionally, an increasing number of families opted for homeschooling, with this demographic growing by nearly 50,000 students since then, totaling 154,000 students, according to the latest data from the Florida Department of Education.

“If your product is better, you’ll be fine. The problem is, they are a relic of the past — a monopolized system where you have one option,” Chris Moya, a Florida lobbyist representing charter schools, said of traditional public schools.

Florida has achieved unprecedented success over the past five years, including a top-ranking status in education. DeSantis emphasized that this budget would solidify Florida’s position as a leading example of fiscal conservatism nationally.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) answers questions from the media, March 7, 2023, at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida. Florida school districts can opt to allow volunteer chaplains under a bill signed Thursday, April 18, 2024, by DeSantis, who dismissed critics who say religion shouldn’t be mixed with public education. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

“Success is not something that is handed to a state as large as Florida. It requires a steadfast commitment to supporting families at every step,” he said.

“By expanding workforce education for high-demand jobs, providing family-first tax relief, ensuring that Florida’s students can access a quality education that fits their needs, investing in resilient infrastructure, and putting conservative principles at the forefront of every decision, we have delivered time and again for our residents,” he added. “Florida’s success is proof positive that when you establish a foundation of governing on conservative principles and protect the freedom of your residents, success will follow.”

DeSantis’s educational policies are already influencing other Republican-leaning states, with many adopting similar voucher programs.

Ailin Vilches Arguello
Ailin Vilches Arguello
Editorial Intern. Hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ailin Vilches Arguello graduated from the University of Rochester, NY, with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Language, Media, and Communications.

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