JMI Issues La⁠t⁠es⁠t⁠ Pol⁠i⁠cy Br⁠i⁠ef on Benef⁠i⁠⁠t⁠s of D⁠i⁠verse Learn⁠i⁠ng Env⁠i⁠ronmen⁠t⁠s and Hos⁠t⁠s Luncheon for Na⁠t⁠⁠i⁠onal School Cho⁠i⁠ce Week

By: The James Madison Institute / 2013



January 30, 2013
Contact:  Valerie Wickboldt
(850) 386-3131
JMI Issues Latest Policy Brief on Benefits of Diverse Learning Environments and Hosts Luncheon for National School Choice Week
~ The James Madison Institute releases “Expanding Students’ Learning Options” and joins Foundation for Excellence in Education and the American Legislative Exchange Council to discuss education in America ~
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – To celebrate National School Choice Week, The James Madison Institute (JMI) issued its latest policy brief, Expanding Students’ Learning Options, at a luncheon and briefing on the state of education in America at JMI headquarters, The Columns, on Wed., Jan. 30, 2013.JMI’s Resident Fellow William Mattox spotlighted a number of Florida students featured in the policy brief who are learning in diverse ways – benefiting from policies that have made it easier for Sunshine State students to attend digital, charter and private schools. Throughout the week, these student stories are being featured on JMI’s“Florida students need greater access to digital, charter and private schools, and every combination in between,” said Mattox. “Bold policy reforms have propelled Florida into the top tier in most national rankings of student success. The numbers show this, but just as important, the stories from our featured students demonstrate that school choice makes a world of difference.”Florida students in JMI’s policy brief that were featured at the luncheon include:

Charly Santagado – Teen gymnast enrolled at Florida Virtual School (FLVS). “Sometimes in regular school you get held up when you already understand the material, or if you don’t yet understand, the teacher forces you to move on, and there are gaps in your knowledge,” said Santagado. She took nine Advanced Placement courses through FLVS and won both an academic scholarship and athletic scholarship to Rutgers.
Luis Aponte, Jr. – Basketball player enrolled in Blue Lake Academy. “This private school offered me a completely different environment. I’m grateful for the opportunities the Step Up For Students Florida Tax Credit scholarship provided me,” said Aponte. This program allowed Aponte to tackle a full load of challenging courses while working part time and playing point guard on his school basketball team.
Sue and Emily Wainio-Oato – Mother and daughter enrolled in school. “I like how science is structured here, and I’m happy that the school strives for good qualifications like being an A rated school,” said Emily. Sue attends State College of Florida (SCF), and Emily is at Manatee School for the Arts (MSA). Emily’s charter school MSA allows her to dual enroll at SCF and earn credits at the same time her mother does.
R. J. Wood – Young student enrolled in blended school dividing time between home instruction and classroom instruction. “When R.J. was approaching school age, my husband and I were intrigued by home schooling but would have never felt comfortable doing everything at home. So the International Community School (ICS) was ideal for us because it fosters a unique partnership between teachers and parents,” said Freddi, R.J.’s mother.
Willow Tufano – Young business owner enrolled at Florida Virtual School. “I calculated that I could make more renting out property than I could in a typical teenage job. If it weren’t for FLVS, I’d never be able to do this.” Tufano, 15, owns rental property and refurbishes used items to sell for income.  She has been featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and in USA Today.
Ian Maser – Musician at Leon High School. “I signed up for as many music classes as my public high school would allow and then looked for ways to meet my academic requirements outside the normal school day.” Maser took an online Spanish II class and taught himself Chemistry I so he could skip directly to AP Chemistry. He graduated with academic honors and numerous accolades in music. Maser even turned down an offer to attend Juilliard to enroll at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music.

JMI recommended policymakers start with the following reforms to expand student-learning options:

Eliminate “old school” barriers to online learning
Eliminate discrimination against students who have never been enrolled in a public school
Address funding inequities between charter schools and traditional public schools
Give those trapped in poorly-performing district schools a “parent trigger”
Adopt education savings accounts for blended learners and other students

Joining JMI were Matt Ladner, Ph.D., senior advisor of policy and research at the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and Lindsay Russell, the education task force director for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Dr. Ladner and Russell presented ALEC’s 2013 Report Card on American Education which outlines data on Florida students comparing their performance to peers in other states. For more information on ALEC’s report contact Lindsay Russell at“We wanted to complement Dr. Ladner’s quantitative data with some qualitative findings from our state,” said JMI President and CEO Dr. J. Robert McClure.  “These student stories are very compelling and help to make the case for further expanding learning options in Florida.”For more information on JMI and to view the full policy brief, visit
# # #
Trusted Solutions for a Better Florida: Founded in 1987, The James Madison Institute (JMI) is Florida’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit, public policy research and education organization. JMI is dedicated to advancing such ideals as economic freedom, limited government, federalism, traditional values, the rule of law, and individual liberty coupled with individual responsibility. All JMI publications are available online at For additional information please contact Valerie Wickboldt at 850.386.3131 or Twitter: @JmsMadisonInst – Facebook: – Reporting: