James Madison Institute
Marshall Center for Educational Options

The J. Stanley Marshall Center for Educational Options seeks to advance policy reforms that empower Florida parents to choose the schools, courses, resources and programs that best meet their child’s unique needs, interests, aptitudes and learning styles. Through policy research, public and media outreach, public testimony and events, the Marshall Center works vigorously to expand learning options for all Florida students.

When Dr. J. Stanley Marshall founded The James Madison Institute (JMI) in 1987, he made certain that education reform became one of JMI’s signature issues. Dr. Marshall’s special interest in education policy grew out of his experience as a former high school science teacher, a former Florida State University president, and a member of numerous education boards. Read more about Dr. Marshall's life and legacy from his son David Marshall's tribute here.

As a result of Dr. Marshall's efforts, JMI is widely credited with helping to usher in the first wave of charter schools in our state during the 1990s. Today, there are more than 600 charter schools in Florida serving more than 250,000 students; and Florida’s example has helped spur more than 40 states to adopt similar charter school policies (which now serve more than 2.3 million students nationwide).

Dr. Marshall’s pioneering work advocating for school choice laid the policy groundwork for many of the sweeping reforms that Governor Jeb Bush signed into law during his time in office. Most notable among these reforms is Florida’s highly-acclaimed Tax Credit Scholarship program, which now serves nearly 100,000 low-income students from around the state. This program is the largest of its kind in the nation (by far), and has served as a model for other states.

Like Dr. Marshall, JMI’s Center for Educational Options has a special concern for disadvantaged students who have often been denied quality schooling. To this end, we work to defend, expand and raise public awareness about a number of well-established school choice programs. The Marshall Center has been a strong proponent of Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSAs), which allow parents to control the per-pupil dollars designated for their child’s education and incentivize them to seek the best “bang-for-their-buck” in education spending. Most recently in Florida, this includes a highly-innovative new program for special-needs students called the Gardiner Scholarship program. This enables parents to “customize” their child’s education and draw upon educational resources (such as tutors, online courses, testing and curriculum) that may not be available at their local district school. 

Over the next decade, JMI’s Marshall Center for Educational Options hopes to expand these Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts to all K-12 students so that every Florida child has access to the schools, courses and educational programs that best meet their unique needs, interests, abilities and learning styles. Indeed, we believe there could be no greater tribute to Dr. Marshall than to help the state of Florida establish universal education choice for all Sunshine State students.