William Mattox

Throughout America, a very important – and highly racialized – conversation is taking place about overcoming injustice. Here in Florida, that conversation has often gone in a markedly different and very promising direction. And schoolchildren of color are among the greatest beneficiaries.

The conversation in Florida, at least as it pertains to education, has focused on what might be called “systemic privilege.”

If you are unfamiliar with this (de-racialized) mash-up term, try this: Go to a public forum and suggest that all families should be treated fairly – that all parents should have access to the per-pupil funds for their children even if they choose to educate them outside the public school system.

Then, watch the defenders of “systemic privilege” come out of the woodwork.

“You want to take money out of the public school system,” they’ll say. “We should be spending more on the public school system, not on school choice alternatives for students outside the system.”

To the defenders of “systemic privilege,” the system is more important than the students. And the people who benefit from the system’s privileged position matter more than the families trapped within its coercive tentacles.

Thankfully, here in Florida, a bipartisan (and multi-ethnic) coalition of leaders have been working to end “systemic privilege.” Over the last two decades, they have succeeded in adopting education choice policies that enable low- and middle-income parents to find the learning environment that best meets their children’s unique needs, aptitudes, and interests.

As a consequence, nearly half (48 percent) of all Florida K-12 students currently attend something other than their zoned public school. And the Florida Legislature just passed a measure adding 61,000 students to Florida’s K-12 scholarship rolls.