Q&A – What’s The Top Priority for Florida This Year?

Today’s entry: You never told us what your top priority for Florida is. I’d like to know.

Bottom Line: I pointed out that only 19% of people ever take the time to reach out to their locally elected officials. So, I challenged listeners to identify one priority for the upcoming Florida state session and to communicate that priority to their state representative and state senator. It’s the best way for your voice to be directly heard by people elected to represent your interests as they head into a session. What I didn’t do, as noted, is provide mine.

While there are many issues I’m personally interested in, my top concern remains education. Florida has made significant progress in recent years. This includes the move to replace the failed Common Core curriculum with Florida’s B.E.S.T plan and an increased school voucher program. We've also had a huge improvement in graduation rates. Florida grad rates have risen from only 58.8% in 2006 to a record high 90% last year. All of this has culminated in Florida going from one of the worst states nationally in education outcomes to better than average. There’s obviously still room for improvement and in my view, there’s no more important component in one’s life this side of faith, than what occurs, or doesn’t, during a grade school education.

On one hand, we can look at the progress we’ve made relative to the country and feel good about it. On the other hand, we can realize that the relative improvement still isn’t all that impressive in context. The United States ranked 2nd in the world in education outcomes in 1980. Most recently we rank 27th in overall outcomes. Yes, Florida has made real progress in key areas like graduation rates, but most other metrics, like “A”, rated school districts in South Florida, look and sound better than the reality because the bar has consistently been lowered across the country.

Last year the legislature took a big step in the school choice direction as $130 million was set aside for adding an additional 18,000 low-income families into Florida’s school voucher program. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 69% of Floridians using school choice programs are minorities with families living near or below the poverty level. The very people who are most vulnerable and in need of opportunity beyond whatever schools are thrust upon them by a bureaucrat who draws lines on a map.

Last year, Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program was the largest in the nation. Participants in the program have proven to be more likely graduate, attend college and graduate from college than nonparticipants. Clearly, it works and is most effective for those most in need of opportunity. So, I want to see school choice expanded, but my real goal isn’t just to continue to make the incremental process. It’s for complete school choice. We should look at education exactly the opposite of how we do today.

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.


Parler & Twitter:@brianmuddradio

Photo by: John Moore/Getty Images

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