Florida’s future rests on the rights of parents to choose what schools best fit the needs of their children. We believe that parents, not administrators, should hold the power to decide and to determine where, when, and at what institution their child or children will attend for their education.
We also know that each child learns differently, and that the diverse needs of all children are best served by a diverse set of school choices.
This is not new. Miami has led the way on school choice ever since former Gov. Jeb Bush and T. Willard Fair of the Urban League of Greater Miami started Florida’s first charter school in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood.
Over the past quarter-century, Florida has seen an explosion in school choice, offering real alternatives for parents and students. Currently, 48% of all Florida students attend something other than their local district school. And perhaps no city in the state has embraced education choice more than Miami, where schools of various kinds, sizes and emphases exist.
Still, we think more education innovation is needed — especially with Florida’s growth and the diversification of our economy. This is why the city of Miami will now offer space and lease land to charter-school associations that open, relocate or expand new charter schools in Miami. It’s a simple proposition: Just as Miami has welcomed new tech companies, Miami will also welcome new charter schools with a tech curriculum to support these companies and prepare Floridians to secure these new jobs.
This is not a subsidy or a gimmick. Instead, it is a strategic investment in a key pillar of our economy and future: our children.
New schools with a curriculum based on innovation and technology will provide students with an educational experience and level of knowledge that prepare them for opportunities of the future. Facilitating the growth of innovative tech-based charter schools will help meet the demand for high-quality learning opportunities from education-minded parents who have recently arrived in Miami.
Moreover, charter schools, private schools, hybrid home schools and an array of other options can complement the existing public-school system, spurring further educational innovation and wider choice for parents.
Miami’s offer to help STEM-focused charter schools dovetails well with a broadbased legislative initiative championed by state Sen. Manny Diaz, of Hialeah, which eliminates numerical restrictions on school-choice scholarships in Florida. This makes it easier for all families, regardless of income, to direct per-pupil allotments to the school best suited to meeting each child’s particular learning needs.
Taken together, these measures should help ensure that Miami residents — along with tech-industry newcomers relocating to Miami — will be able to educate their children in schools well designed to prepare the next generation for our 21st century digital economy.
Miami hopes to use this model as a template for other growing cities across Florida. We know that this can unleash economic opportunity for millions of Floridians in the years ahead. This Miami tech movement is Florida’s moment to invest in its people, expand educational freedom and build a future economy for all in Florida.
Moreover, in a post-COVID world where many “digital nomads” can now live and work wherever they want, Miami’s efforts to use school choice as a tool in spurring economic development ought to help Florida become America’s premier “education destination.”
Francis Suarez is mayor of Miami. Robert McClure is president and CEO of The James Madison Institute.