WINNING: Ron DeSantis Scores With School Choice

Down in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis just keeps showing us how it’s done. In the latest, we see the success of Florida’s school choice programs, which represent a step towards a great goal — getting government, at all levels, out of education.

This is the Way.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Republicans have spent years aggressively turning the state into a haven for school choice. They have been wildly successful, with tens of thousands more children enrolling in private or charter schools or homeschooling.

Now as those programs balloon, some of Florida’s largest school districts are facing staggering enrollment declines — and grappling with the possibility of campus closures — as dollars follow the increasing number of parents opting out of traditional public schools.

Now, as to that statement about “…some of Florida’s largest school districts are facing staggering enrollment declines,” I can only reply, “Yes, and?” To those school districts, and to the public school absolutists who are clutching their pearls and complaining about the likely closures, I would say:

“If the public schools were doing a better job, parents wouldn’t be choosing to enroll their kids elsewhere. All Florida has done is give them that option; Florida has opened the doors to the education market and created some competition, and it looks to me like the public schools can’t compete. If they can’t compete, they should be closed, as their customers, namely, parents, seem to have lost faith in those schools.”

This is a show that education reform advocates should take on the road. Some states already are moving in this direction.

See Related: PENDERGRASS: What’s So Scary About a Charter School? 

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Education is, of course, just one area in which Florida is charting the right-of-center path forward.

The emphasis on these programs has been central to DeSantis’ goals of remaking the Florida education system, and they are poised for another year of growth. DeSantis’ school policies are already influencing other GOP-leaning states, many of which have pursued similar voucher programs. But Florida has served as a conservative laboratory for a suite of other policies, ranging from attacking public- and private-sector diversity programs to fighting the Biden administration on immigration.

“We need some big changes throughout the country,” DeSantis said Thursday evening at the Florida Homeschool Convention in Kissimmee. “Florida has shown a blueprint, and we really can be an engine for that as other states work to adopt a lot of the policies that we’ve done.”

Granted Politico isn’t exactly known for experiencing lots of warm fuzzy feelings towards Governor DeSantis, but read through the hand-wringing — “…attacking public and private sector diversity programs,” which richly deserve to be attacked, defunded, and eliminated — and you see a conservative state adopting conservative principles and seeing marked improvement.

The move to privatize education certainly works. Florida now ranks top in the nation in education.

It’s working. That’s the message, and it’s a message that needs to be spread far and wide: It’s working. These ideas work. Getting the government out of the way works. Competition works. Giving people more choices works. It’s an unalloyed good. Of course, the ultimate goal would be to get the government — all government, at all levels — out of education completely, but that, candidly, is probably unrealistic; there will always be at least local school boards. But it’s a good principle to have government functions held as close to the local level as possible, and in schools, the appropriate level is at the city or county level; local school boards are far more accountable to the people than a state school board, or a federal Department of Education that has no constitutional authorization to exist in the first place.

For conservatives and libertarians, Ron DeSantis’s Florida has shown us how things are getting done in the Sunshine State. More red states should follow this example.