Marshall Center for Educational Options

Flor⁠i⁠da Pol⁠i⁠⁠t⁠⁠i⁠cs: All Hybr⁠i⁠ds Are No⁠t⁠ ⁠t⁠he Same; Flor⁠i⁠da’s Educa⁠t⁠⁠i⁠on Pol⁠i⁠c⁠i⁠es Need To Reflec⁠t⁠ Th⁠i⁠s

By: William Mattox / 2024

William Mattox


Marshall Center for Educational Options


In 1976, the owner of a Nashville salvage yard assembled a crazy-quilt Cadillac inspired by Johnny Cash’s hit song, “One Piece at a Time.” This “hybrid” vehicle proved to be a clever promotional gimmick for Cash’s song about an autoworker who built a car at home using a hodgepodge of factory parts he collected over a two-decade span.

Now, obviously, a crazy-quilt Cadillac bears little resemblance to a Toyota Prius. And even though both can lay claim to being hybrid vehicles, they don’t exactly belong in the same category.

This brings us to a somewhat similar problem in the innovative world of hybrid education.

In recent years, a growing number of families have sought out hybrid learning plans in which students spend some learning time with a paid instructor and some learning time at home with a parent.

These hybrid education plans come in all shapes and sizes. And they each have much to commend. Still, they don’t all belong in the same category. Because some operate like traditional schools (in which teachers direct students’ education) and some more closely resemble home-schools (in which parents curate their child’s curriculum).

To illustrate this subtle-but-important difference, consider Robert and Freddi Wood’s family. When their eldest child started school two decades ago, the Woods enrolled him in Orlando’s International Community School, a hybrid program in which students learn three days a week at school and two days a week at home. Importantly, the lesson plans for all five days are put together by teachers — not parents.

This appealed to the Woods because they wanted to be significantly involved in their son’s education — but didn’t feel prepared to take responsibility for lesson planning. Plus, in exchange for playing the role of their child’s daytime personal tutors, the Woods saved on tuition — an important consideration since they were paying out of pocket for their child’s schooling.

As time went on, the Woods gained confidence in their roles as parent-educators. And they decided to switch to a different hybrid plan — one in which Freddi (who holds degrees from Emory and UCLA Law) would curate the curriculum while supplementing her at-home instruction with “a la carte” classes purchased from a nearby school.

Now, in a perfect world, it would make no difference whether families like the Woods did hybrid education this way or that. All that would matter is that they got the results they wanted.

But Florida’s K-12 scholarship programs currently cover only parent-curated forms of hybrid education. They don’t cover private schools that meet less than five days a week. As a result, families that want to use their Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) at a hybrid school are not allowed to do so — even if the school grants diplomas and is fully accredited!

Not only is this bad for families, it’s bad for taxpayers.

You see, hybrid education programs tend to be very cost-effective. They typically deliver high quality at low prices (thanks, in large part, to the significant role that parents play in their child’s education). As such, hybrid arrangements strengthen the price-competitiveness of the K-12 marketplace — helping to deter constant increases in private school tuition and runaway spending in public education.

Given all this, the Florida Legislature ought to change existing policy to make it possible for families to use their FES scholarship at hybrid schools like International Community School.

This subtle but important change would help Florida remain a leader in delivering bang-for-buck in education. And it would acknowledge that every family that wants a hybrid education for their children ought to be able to get one — whether it looks more like the K-12 equivalent of a Toyota Prius or has the creative flair of Johnny Cash’s crazy-quilt Cadillac.

Found originally in Florida Politics.