Education in Florida

The Florida education system consists of public and private schools in Florida, including the State University System of Florida (SUSF), the Florida College System (FCS), the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) and other private institutions, and also secondary and primary schools.

There are ten public universities and a liberal arts college that comprise the State University System of Florida. In addition the Florida College System comprises 28 public community colleges and state colleges. In 2008 the State University System had 302,513 students. Florida also has many private universities, some of which comprise the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida. In 2010, nineteen of Florida's 28 community colleges were offering four year degree programs.

The state's public primary and secondary schools are administered by the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE). FLDOE also has authority over the Florida College System. The State University System is under the authority of the Florida Board of Governors.

As mandated by the Florida Constitution, Article IX, section 4, Florida has 67 school districts, one for each county. All are separate from municipal government. School districts tax property within their jurisdictions to support their budgets.

Florida has hundreds of private schools of all types. The FLDOE has no authority over private school operations. private schools may or may not be accredited, and achievement tests are not required for private school graduating seniors. Many private schools obtain accreditation and perform achievement tests to show parents the school's interest in educational performance.

In 2008, about 55,000 students were homeschooled. Neither FLDOE nor the local school district has authority to regulate home school activities. The government supports and assists homeschooling activities. There is no minimum number of days in a year, or hours in a day, that must be met, and achievement tests are not required for home school graduating seniors.

Primary and secondary schools
In the state of Florida, public primary and secondary schools are administered by the Florida Department of Education.

School districts are organized within county boundaries. Each school district has an elected Board of education which sets policy, budget, goals and approves expenditures. Management is the responsibility of a Superintendent of schools.

The Florida Constitution allows districts to either elect the superintendent in a popular election (the default provision) or choose (via popular election) to allow the school board to appoint the superintendent. As of 2010, school boards in 25 districts (Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Duval, Flagler, Hernando, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Saint Johns, Saint Lucie, Sarasota, Seminole, and Volusia) appointed the superintendent; the remaining districts elect their superintendent.

In 2008, there were 619 secondary schools in the state.

Education Week evaluated Florida's schools for 2010, fifth in the nation overall, with As for student testing, teacher accountability and progress on closing the achievement gap. It gave the state an F for per-pupil spending.

The Center for American Progress, described as a "left-leaning think tank" stated that for half the states studied, it found no correlation between spending and achievement after allowing for cost of living, and students living in poverty. The Center commends Florida as one of two states that provides annual school-level productivity evaluations which report to the public how well school funds are being spent at the local level.

Florida's public-school revenue per student and spending per $1000 of personal income usually rank in the bottom 25 percent of U.S. states. Average teacher salaries rank near the middle of U.S. states.

Florida public schools have consistently ranked in the bottom 25 percent of many national surveys and average test-score rankings before allowances for race are made. When allowance for race is considered, a 2007 US Government list of test scores shows Florida white fourth graders performed 13th in the nation for reading (232), 12th for math (250); while black fourth graders were 11th for math (225), 12th for reading (208). White eight graders scored 30th for math (289) and 36th for reading (268). Neither score was considered statistically significant from average. Black eighth graders ranked 19th on math (259), 25th on reading (244).

In 2002, voters approved a constitutional amendment to limit class size in public schools starting in the 2010-11 school year from 18 in lower grades to 23 in high school. This was phased in by the legislature from 2003 to 2009, to promote compliance when the amendment took affect. As of March 2011, 28 school districts had failed to comply and owed fines, which were to be redistributed to districts that were in compliance.

Florida educators criticized former Governor Jeb Bush for a program that penalizes underperforming schools (as indicated by standardized tests, most prominently the FCAT) with fewer funding dollars. Supporters say the program's tough measures have resulted in vast improvements to the education system. Major testing organizations frequently discount the use of state's average test-score rankings, or any average of scaled scores, as a valid metric (for details on scaled test scores, see psychometrics).

Florida, like other states, appears to substantially undercount dropouts in reporting.

In 2007, the state's school population grew by 477 students to 2,641,598, which was far below the projected 48,376 increase. School boards blamed rising insurance and property tax costs and the major 2004 and 2005 hurricane season, which have discouraged migration into Florida. Growth in counties such as Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Orange, Pinellas, and Duval counties was under state projections. Hillsborough County was the only one of these to have grown; growth in the county was projected to be 4,537, but the actual increase was only 536 students.

Some school districts had backed up the start of the academic year well into August in order to complete the semester and exams before the December holiday break. In 2006, the legislature required districts to start no earlier than two weeks before the end of August. The state requires that each school teach for 180 days. Private schools may be open for more than 170 days.

Florida does not handpick the best students to take the Advanced Placement exams.

In 2010, there were about 60,750 foreign-born children of illegal immigrants attending public schools. The cost per year averaged $9,035 annually. The total cost of educating these children is over $548 million.

Florida had a voucher system for low-income families from failing school districts from 1999 until 2006. In the final year, 750 students out of 190,000 eligible made this choice. The state paid an average of $4,000 per student as opposed to the $7,206 per student attending public schools.

The system was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court for violating separation of church and state, since some students used these for church schools.

Between 2000 and 2008, school enrollment increased 6%, the number of teachers 20%.

As in most areas, high schools compete in sports in two types of division. One, because of logistical and geographical constraints, is necessarily local. That is, large schools play small ones in the same area. A second division is based on school population and is statewide. Eventually, schools with the best records in this type of division will meet each other for seasonal playoffs to determine the state champion.

Competition is under the auspices of the Florida High School Athletic Association.

In the fiscal year 2007-2008, the Florida Educational Enhancement Trust Fund received $1.28 billion from the Florida Lottery, passing the billion-dollar mark for the 6th time in the lottery's 20-year history. As of 2009, the current lottery's total contribution since start-up is more than $19 billion.

Public colleges and universities
In 2010, the annual tuition. alone, at Florida's 11 public universities was $4,886, third lowest in the country. The average cost total for books, tuition, fees, and living expenses, is $15,500 compared to $16,140 average for the country.

In an attempt to save money, entering students may take nationally standardized Advanced Placement exams. In 2010, 67, 741 Florida seniors took the exam. 33,712 scored 3 or more, sufficient for advanced placement. A total of 307,000 Florida students took AP exams in 2010. 64,000 scored a minimum of three or more; 43,000 scoring a four or higher.

State University System of Florida
The State University System of Florida manages and funds Florida's ten public universities and a public Liberal Arts college:
    Florida A&M University
    Florida Atlantic University
    Florida Gulf Coast University
    Florida International University
    Florida State University
    New College of Florida
    University of Central Florida
    University of North Florida
    University of Florida
    University of South Florida
    University of West Florida

In 2009, the system employed 45,000 people statewide. The budget was $4.1 billion for community colleges and universities.

In 2000, the governor and the state legislature abolished the Florida Board of Regents, which long had governed the State University System of Florida, and created boards of trustees to govern each university. As is typical of executive-appointed government boards, the appointees so far have predominantly belonged to the governor's party. This effect has not been without controversy. In 2002, former governor and then-U.S. Senator Bob Graham (Dem.) led a constitutional-amendment ballot referendum designed to restore the board-of-regents system. Voters approved. Therefore the legislature created the Florida Board of Governors; however, each university still maintains a Board of Trustees which work under the Board of Governors. During Florida's 2007 legislative session, Governor Charlie Crist signed into law SB-1710, which allowed the Board of Governors to allow a tuition differential for the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of South Florida. This legislation ultimately created a tier system for higher education in Florida's State University System.

Florida College System
The Florida College System manages and funds Florida's 28 public community colleges and state colleges, with over 100 locations throughout the state of Florida.
    Brevard Community College
    Broward College
    Chipola College
    College of Central Florida
    Daytona State College
    Edison State College
    Florida Keys Community College
    Florida State College at Jacksonville
    Gulf Coast State College
    Hillsborough Community College
    Indian River State College
    Florida Gateway College
    Lake-Sumter Community College
    Miami Dade College
    North Florida Community College
    Northwest Florida State College
    Palm Beach State College
    Pasco-Hernando Community College
    Pensacola State College
    Polk State College
    Santa Fe College
    Seminole State College of Florida
    South Florida Community College
    St. Johns River State College
    St. Petersburg College
    State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota
    Tallahassee Community College
    Valencia College

Private colleges and universities
The Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida is an association of 28 private, educational institutions in the state of Florida. The association reported that their member institutions enrolled over 121,000 students in the fall of 2006.
    Barry University, Miami Shores
    Beacon College, Leesburg
    Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach
    Clearwater Christian College, Clearwater
    Eckerd College, St. Petersburg
    Edward Waters College, Jacksonville
    Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach
    Flagler College, Saint Augustine
    Florida College, Tampa
    Florida Hospital College of Health Science, Orlando
    Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne
    Florida Memorial University, Miami
    Florida Southern College, Lakeland
    Hodges University, Naples
    Jacksonville University, Jacksonville
    Lynn University, Boca Raton
    Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale
    Palm Beach Atlantic University, West Palm Beach
    Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota
    Rollins College, Orlando
    Saint Leo University, Saint Leo
    Saint Thomas University, Miami
    Southeastern University, Lakeland
    Stetson University, Deland
    University of Miami, Miami/Coral Gables
    University of Tampa, Tampa
    Warner University, Lake Wales
    Webber International University, Babson Park

Additionally, there are 20 colleges and universities that are not affiliated with the ICUF, but are fully accredited universities in the state of Florida.
    Ave Maria University
    Baptist College of Florida
    Boca Raton Arts College
    Carlos Albizu University
    Everest University
    Florida Christian College
    Fort Lauderdale Institute of Art
    Full Sail University
    Hobe Sound College
    Johnson & Wales University
    Jones College
    Miami International University
    Northwood University
    Orlando Culinary Academy
    Pensacola Christian College
    Rasmussen College
    Saint John's College
    Schiller International University
    Trinity College