Parental choice and education: The backbone of Florida's business success
A SPECIAL REPORT by Tripp Scott's Ed Pozzuoli as published in Florida Trend
When entrepreneurs, CEOs, and site selection consultants come to Florida scouting relocation destinations for corporate headquarters or regional offices, the common component they often seek is a diverse and educated workforce.
That starts with the K-12 student.
Florida ranks high in educating tomorrow’s workforce today by giving parents the confidence that their children will receive a world-class education.
So when some school districts opted for extended school closings amid the pandemic, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis insisted instead that Florida schools deliver on that promise. He sought to ensure that parents of all socioeconomic backgrounds had a voice in their children’s education.
The perils of extended school closings were felt in districts nationwide. “Unfinished learning” stemming from extended closures resulted in months of lost education and skills across reading, writing and arithmetic. This disproportionately fell upon low-income and students of color, noted a study from McKenzie. While students in majority-white schools lost on average three months in reading and four months in math, majority-Black schools ended the 2021 school year six months behind in both, researchers found.
Studies also found that school closings stripped away the benefits of parental involvement, which resulted in reduced class participation and achievement, especially among minority students. The detrimental impacts of school closings also increased emotional, behavioral and mental-health issues; acts of violence; even suicide attempts, according to reports. So devastating were the impacts that the surgeon general issued a health advisory on the matter.
Conversely, policies that encouraged schools to remain open or that gave parents greater school choice delivered broad returns. This was found both in public school districts and in Florida’s charter schools, which far outpaced district-run counterparts in keeping instruction going and minimizing educational gaps during the pandemic.
The results have been dramatic. Increased parental engagement can be correlated with improved student academic achievement; better behavioral outcomes, emotional functioning and self-control within the classroom; increased attendance; lower dropout rates; and higher college enrollment, the Urban League found.
What’s more, in Florida, similar rights were extended to businesses. Companies continue to be encouraged to remain open for business and not require masks. So successful were these practices and policies that Florida was among the first states to enjoy a robust economic recovery, which continues to this day.
Gov. DeSantis’ commitment to combating the pandemic’s ongoing ramifications continues. His “Freedom First Budget” presented to Florida legislators this year included record educational funding, raises and retention bonuses for teachers and principals and $421 million for school safety and mental health. The budget’s goal was to promote “freedom through high-quality education.”
Parents and business leaders alike know that a better-educated child today will become part of a stronger workforce tomorrow. That’s a future we can build on.