Education on 6: South Florida Public, Charter Schools Battle For Top Students

There are more than 200 public charter schools in South Florida. Many of them are high-performing, excellent alternatives to traditional public schools. In fact, driven by competition from charters, we’ve seen an explosion of innovation in the Miami-Dade and Broward public school district classrooms over the past few years. The superintendents from both counties say, bring it on, we’ve got the goods.

“This is a district driven by choice, driven by innovation, driven by parent demand,” said Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent. “I think choice competition is a good thing, let parents make a choice, I think we have a superior product for them to choose from.”

“I no longer refer to Broward County public schools as traditional, all of our schools are innovative schools,” said Robert Runcie, superintendent of the Broward County School District. “There are opportunities for every kid.”

The local school districts are practically in a race to create more options available to students. They’ve added hundreds of magnet and choice programs over the past five or six years. In just one example of many, Broward went all-in on debate, expanding it to every high school, every middle schools, and now even into some elementary schools. The county now leads the nation in access to debate programs.

“Debate is one of those great skills that our students need to have in terms of looking at information, analyzing facts, being able to communicate effectively,” Runcie said, explaining the reasoning behind the emphasis on debate.

Both districts have International Baccalaureate, Cambridge, arts magnet programs and STEM magnets. With specialized schools such as Design and Architecture Senior High, iPrep Academy, the New World School of the Arts, and MAST Academy, Miami-Dade has a unique smorgasbord of possibilities.

“We’re the fourth largest school system in America but we have the strongest choice portfolio of any school system of any size in the United States, not just in numbers but in terms of quality, we have the highest rated magnet programs anywhere in the country,” boasted Carvalho.

Both districts strategically place choice options at schools which face the most competition from charter schools. Broward has reversed a trend which saw it losing thousands of students. Their enrollment numbers are going up now.

“We’re glad to see that trend and I think that trend is an example of the fact that we’re working very hard to meet the needs of our students in our communities,” Runcie said.

“We are extremely competitive and to a certain extent, the choice movement forced us to become better, but i think now we out-perform it,” said Carvalho.

Parents, if you’re not sure what to do, investigate your options on the web sites of the Miami-Dade and Broward school districts. You will find public school programs for every interest. In fact, a new state law allows students to cross county lines to go to school.

The days of having to live in a particular district to attend school there are over. So as the superintendents say, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you’re not looking hard enough.

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