National School Choice Week wrapped up on Saturday. With a multitude of options available for families, including public and private schools, Volusia County Schools Choice and Charter School Specialist Sandra Tweedy says that school choice allows parents to decide which academic environment is best for their child.
“We really feel like if we can place a student in an educational environment that they are comfortable with, we’re going to see success,” she said. “That’s really what we look for because we do want them to have that opportunity to be successful, and it may not be in their neighborhood school due to whatever educational opportunities are being offered at other sites.”
Here is what you need to know as you consider education options for the 2023-24 school year.
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What is school choice?
School choice in Florida is the availability of open enrollment options that allow school districts to place students in schools based on a family’s preference rather than where they live and are zoned for.
“Basically, what we do is we provide parents opportunities to make a choice of what school they would like their child to enroll in as long as there’s capacity,” Tweedy said.
Families are responsible for transporting their students to and from schools outside of their zoned traditional school.
Why do families choose other schools?
There are many reasons families select other schools. Public school choice options in Volusia County include charter schools, alternative schools, virtual school and home school in addition to traditional schools.
Volusia County has eight alternative schools designed for children with behavioral, emotional, social, health or discipline needs. It has 10 charter schools that specialize in various categories like science and arts, or specific populations like pregnant and parenting students.
Families may also select another traditional school for their child based on the availability of Advanced Placement classes, International Baccalaureate classes, dual enrollment, career and technical academies or other special programs.
Tweedy says families also choose other schools because a sibling already attends that school or it is closer than their zoned school if they are on the edge of a zone.
Families may also enroll in Volusia’s many private schools directly through the school.
How many families utilize public school choice in Volusia?
For the current school year, 2,549 variances were granted for students to attend schools outside of their zoned school. This is 69% of all requests, Tweedy said. The remaining 31% are waitlisted due to capacity.
A total of 5,851 students in the district currently attend a different school than their zoned school, including 3,307 elementary students, 733 middle school students and 1,811 high school students.
How does applying for school choice work?
Parents can complete a school choice application in their parent portal account until March 1, 2023.
More information is available at VCS’s School Choice Department webpage, or by contacting SchoolChoice@groups.volusia.k12.fl.us.
Where does Florida rank in school choice?
Tweedy says school choice has taken off since the Florida Legislature enacted laws to direct each school district to allow controlled open enrollment, which means parents can select which school their child attends if capacity allows, by the 2017-18 school year.
The Center for Education Reform ranks Florida first in the nation in choice programs and second in charter schools. The Heritage Foundation Education Freedom report card ranks Florida third in school choice.
What vouchers and scholarships are available?
The Hope Scholarship is available for public school students who are bullied in school or victims of violence. Family Empowerment Scholarships are available for low-income and working class families. For a full list of scholarship options, visit fldoe.org/schools/school-choice.
Vouchers are also available for private schools, and the Florida Legislature is currently considering a massive expansion to the state’s voucher program.
Contact reporter Danielle Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.