Data: Which FL counties might be interested in more school vouchers? Geography may play a part
Florida Phoenix | By Danielle J. Brown | February 7, 2023
As GOP lawmakers work to pass a massive expansion of school “vouchers” or “scholarships” — to allow families to use public dollars for private education — where would the demand be for the program?
The Florida Phoenix ran some numbers to look at the current situation in Florida, seeing how many private schools are in a county compared to public schools, including public charters. Keep in mind that in Florida, a county represents a school district.
The Phoenix analyzed 2021-22 data from the Florida Department of Education. Overall, as it turns out, South Florida as well as Central Florida and areas on the Atlantic Coast have the highest percentages of private schools within their counties.
To determine the percentages, the Phoenix added the total number of private and public schools within a county. That’s the total. Then the Phoenix looked only at the percent of private schools in that county.
For example, the massive Miami-Dade County has 487 public and charter schools and 646 private schools. The total: 1,133. That means 57.02 percent of all schools in Miami-Dade County are private.
The data analysis did not include Florida Virtual School and lab schools located within Florida’s universities.
Here’s the top 10 counties that have the highest percentage of private schools:
Miami-Dade (57.02 percent private schools), Seminole (55.63 percent), Flagler (54.84 percent), Osceola (53.99 percent), Orange (52.23 percent), St. Lucie (51.61 percent), Lake (50.89 percent), Pinellas (50.37 percent), Broward, (50 percent) and Leon (50 percent.)
Those two counties, at 50 percent, have a one-to-one ratio of public schools to private schools. Broward County in the South has 301 private schools to 301 public schools and Leon County has 48 private schools and 48 public schools.
The remaining counties have more public schools than private schools, the data shows. The ten counties with the lowest percentage of private schools are a handful of small rural counties.
Taylor County has just two private schools, compared to the eight public schools. With 10 schools in total, 20 percent of schools in the county are private schools, according to the analysis.
Here are the counties with lowest percentage of private schools:
Taylor (20 percent private schools), Dixie (18.18 percent), Glades (18.18 percent), Hardee (15.38 percent), Sumter (15.38 percent), Lafayette (14.29 percent), Wakulla (13.33 percent), Liberty (12.50 percent), Union (12.50 percent) and Holmes (10.00 percent).
Calhoun County, in the Panhandle, has no private schools in the database.
The data creates some questions, such as whether counties with high percentages of private schools will flourish — or not — if Florida’s voucher program expands significantly.
Or, will rural counties be encouraged to develop private schools if the voucher program expands?