An exodus is underway from New York City and its surrounding environs. Many members of the Jewish community are leaving the Big Apple and moving to the Sunshine State. And their migration to Florida – America’s Promised Land – is being fueled in part by a single factor: school choice.
“Many young families up north are enticed by Florida’s robust menu of state-supported private-school scholarships,” writes Allan Jacob in The Wall Street Journal. “These programs make private school tuition far more affordable in Florida than in New York and New Jersey.”1
Florida Trend magazine reports enrollment in Jewish Day Schools is on the rise.2 And Mimi Jankovitz of Teach Florida says this is especially true in South Florida.3
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people from New York and New Jersey,” says Eli Hagler of Brauser Maimonides Academy, a Jewish school in Fort Lauderdale that has seen its enrollment grow 15 percent in the last year. “Companies are going virtual and staying virtual, and so people are looking to get out.”4
But they aren’t all heading to areas of Florida with long-established Jewish communities. For example, Rabbi Yisrael Taussig and many of his followers left Brooklyn to start an orthodox community in a semi-rural area of central Florida. A number of other Jews have decided to join them, attracted to Florida’s lower cost of living and more parent-friendly educational environment. 5
Interestingly, Matt Ladner of reimaginED reports a similar exodus is occurring out west, where many Jewish residents are leaving California and re-settling in Arizona. Ladner observes, “Again, the outflow comes from a high tax/cost state that provides no assistance to families seeking private education to a lower cost/taxed state which does.”6
Now, at first blush, all of this “education migration” might seem like a mere curiosity, a peculiar phenomenon without any relevance beyond a relatively small sub-population.
But there is reason to believe that something much more significant is happening here. There is reason to believe we are witnessing the beginning of a “new normal” in which many education-minded families move to freedom-loving states that facilitate parents’ efforts to direct the education of their children.
In this new normal, Florida could easily become America’s unrivaled “education destination,” and enjoy the short- and long-term benefits of attracting education-minded parents (and their talented offspring) to the Sunshine State.
Moreover, as we will see, the in-migration of families that highly value education could have an especially positive effect on many areas of our state needing economic development or revitalization. This would make a positive phenomenon exponentially better.
To fully appreciate the opportunity now before us, it’s important for Florida’s leaders to understand four different research findings (briefly summarized here) which ought to inform future policymaking:
- Many workers now have greater residential flexibility than ever before. Thanks in part to successful COVID-related experiments in remote work, many people are now less tethered to a central work site and can live in places that are beyond a daily commuting distance. Moreover, some “digital nomads” can now work and live almost anywhere they want.
- Even before the pandemic, considerable pent-up demand for wider education options existed. For many years, national parental preference surveys have shown that less than 40 percent of all parents view public schooling as the optimal education environment for their children (even though more than three-quarters of all U.S. students regularly attend district schools).
- Parental confidence in the public school system is weakening significantly. Some leading pollsters say they have never seen anything like it. And this decline in parental confidence – and the corresponding rise in support for education choice – has been particularly striking among “PTA Moms” and other highly-engaged parents.
- Property values typically increase in less-affluent areas when universal private school scholarship programs are adopted. This may seem counter-intuitive; but a number of case studies show that when education opportunities are no longer tied to school zoning considerations, many middle-income households choose to live in areas that historically have had a hard time attracting or retaining upwardly-mobile families.
This report takes a closer look at each of these research findings – and their implications for K-12 education policy here in Florida. We begin by examining the relationship between education options and housing decisions, because this very compelling research helps lay the foundation for a new economic growth strategy: using school choice as a magnet for drawing education-minded families to our state.