An exodus is underway from New York City and its surrounding environs. Many Jews 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 very interesting 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.”
Now, at first blush, this “education migration” might seem like a peculiar phenomenon without any relevance beyond a relatively small subpopulation. 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.
As a recent Forbes analysis observed, “When remote work means there’s no longer any reason to live in a high-priced, cold-weather big city, the appeal of sprawling yards, proximity to beaches and warm sunshine is undeniable.” Especially for families uninspired by their current (lack of) schooling options.
Now that there are many upwardly-mobile families with children who can more easily relocate than in the past, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ought to put out the welcome mat and invite “school choice refugees” to move to Florida.
Our state’s economic development leaders ought to join him in urging education-minded families with children to move here — much as they recruit major corporations to build new plants or relocate in Florida. Protestant and Catholic school leaders in our state ought to do the same, tapping into their national and regional networks, much as Florida Jews have been doing.
And cities and towns looking for ways to attract new talent to their local economies ought to look for ways to position their locales as “education destinations” that are “DIY-learning” friendly.
Indeed, one of the most promising education trends (to which COVID has greatly contributed) is the growing interest in pod learning, micro-schools, hybrid home schooling, and other “DIY” education innovations that usually require only a small number of families. These education innovations can work well in small towns and rural communities where “critical mass” can be a daunting challenge for traditional “macro school” alternatives to overcome.
State legislators ought to help facilitate greater “education migration” by expanding the eligibility of existing scholarship programs so that income restrictions do not discourage affluent families from coming to Florida (and contributing to our tax base!).
Universal scholarships enjoy wide public support — 81% of U.S. parents believe that all families should be eligible for education choice scholarships, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. And education choice programs typically put less strain on state and local budgets than do public schools.
In conclusion, Florida is in a great position to become America’s premier “education destination.” We already have the nation’s largest and most impressive school choice programs. We already have an existing education choice infrastructure that can accommodate newcomers. And we already have an entrepreneurial spirit that fosters innovation — and regularly improves our scholarship programs to help more parents find the optimal education for their children.
Maybe someday more states will get around to listening to the frustrations of their education-minded parents and will (finally!) address their pent-up demand for education choice. In the meantime, Florida ought to welcome every American family looking for education freedom.
William Mattox is the director of the Marshall Center for Educational Options at The James Madison Institute in Tallahassee. This op-ed is taken from a new JMI report presented this week at an international conference in Ireland.