School choice policies around the nation are enjoying strong momentum and there is no sign on the horizon that this might change anytime soon. If anything, reality might be slowly sinking in for school choice skeptics that, once parents are empowered choose the best education for their children, it is going to be virtually impossible to turn back the clock.
The only thing that could do that, however, would be showing parents that educational choice does not work for them. However, evidence keeps piling up that school choice is indeed the way to go if politicians are serious about helping our most underserved students. In fact, the Florida Department of Education recently released new data showing that charter school students are outperforming students in traditional public schools in overall achievement and learning gains. Furthermore, the data also show that racial achievement gaps were smaller for the students in charter schools. The fact that charters in Florida have been able to reduce racial achievement gaps is no small feat, and it should not be understated, especially considering that the achievement gaps for Hispanic students remain wide in many other states.
And Hispanic families in Florida are certainly taking notice, even more so than other racial and ethnic groups. In fact, while white and black students make up a larger share of all students in traditional public schools than they do in charters schools, this trend is not true for Hispanic students. As highlighted in the report, in the school year 2015-2016 Latinos made up a significantly larger share of all students in charters than in the traditional public schools.
Overrepresentation of Hispanics in charters is a sign that Hispanic families are effectively “voting with their feet” when it comes to selecting the best education model for their children. Politicians in every state, especially in those with a rapidly growing Hispanic population should pay attention. Between 2003 and 2013 the percentage of Hispanic students in our public schools has grown from 19 to 25 percent and there are currently 12 million Hispanic children in our public schools—a number that is predicted to grow to about 30 percent by 2025.
When it comes to education, we need to focus on what policies work best, and expand school choice. Our economy desperately needs an education system that works for all students and is able to help the most underserved in our society. By investing in educational choice, Florida is moving in the right direction. When it comes to making sure Hispanic students have access to high-quality education, will other states follow suit?