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Education in Florida is undersold


Perception: Lousy public schools

Reality: "When it comes to education progress, Florida is a star performer. Demography need not be destiny. Over the past decade, Florida has succeeded in improving student achievement despite its demographic profile. Florida has managed to realize such gains although the state's per-student funding is below the national average."

— Education Next, "Demography as Destiny?" Matthew Ladner, Summer 2009

[Photo: iStockphoto]

47.4% — Florida high school seniors who take an Advanced Placement exam — the highest percentage in the nation. Florida also ranks sixth in the nation for the percentage of students who score a 3 or higher on the AP exam at 23.9%, above the national average
of 18.1%.
K-12 funding and K-12 quality are hotly debated, and different measures give different pictures of Florida's school quality. But as recently as 2010 Florida had climbed to fifth nationally in Education Week's ranking of schools (though the state fell off in 2011 to 11th). Earlier this year, the National Council on Teacher Quality gave Florida the highest grade in the nation, albeit a "B." And the Economist magazine, in a story in February on former Gov. Jeb Bush's influence on school improvement in America, said of the state, "its schools were among the nation's worst in 1999 and are now among the best." State Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, argues Florida should provide more funding for education and improve the dropout rate and education in arts and music but, he adds, in the core curriculum of reading, writing and math, "we're up there, but it's not what we tell the world. Performance-wise, we're a top 10 state in the nation." Indeed, education is just one area where Florida undersells itself nationally, says Ring, an early Yahoo executive who has lived in New York, California and Massachusetts. Ring says Florida has good research centers, talent, a significant venture capital community, incubators and other innovation hallmarks. "We've done a tremendous amount to build an economic innovation ecosystem in the state. But we've done a poor job of branding that."
— Mike Vogel

» Charter school enrollment tripled in the last 10 years to 154,780 students in 2011, while private school enrollment dropped 13.7% to 305,825 in 2010-11. Meanwhile, the number of students being home-schooled grew by 68% to 69,281 students.

Higher Ed

The state has reduced its higher-ed spending, shifting cost to students and their families.

Year State General Revenue Tuition
2006-07 $7,764 $3,586
2007-08 7,685 3,565
2008-09 6,926 3,792
2009-10 5,773 4,231
2010-11 5,673 4,441
2011-12 4,938 4,960

58.8% — percentage of Florida high school grads who move on to a "degree-granting institution" vs. the national average of 63.8%


» Cheap: On most measures of consumer spending for various goods and services like transportation, leisure and housing, Florida — the fourth-largest state — ranks between third and fifth. The exception: On spending for education, where the state ranks 10th, according to Euromonitor International.


0 — Florida state universities ranked among the top 10 public universities by U.S. News. Four ranked among the top 100.

No. 19 University of Florida

No. 46 Florida State University

No. 97 University of Central Florida

No. 100 University of South Florida



[Photo: iStockphoto]

65% — Percentage of undergraduates at Florida universities who finish their degrees in six years vs. the national average of 55%

7th — Florida's rank for the number of master's degrees awarded

6th — Florida's rank in doctoral degrees

No. 2 — Florida excels at producing associate's degrees, awarding the second-highest number of those degrees in the nation.

45th — Despite increases, Florida has the lowest tuition of all but five states and the District of Columbia.

Debt: Florida has the seventh-highest student loan default rate in the nation at 10.5% for 2009, higher than the national average of 8.8%.

A sampling of tuitions (2011-12, in-state):

» University of South Carolina: $10,168

» University of North Dakota: $7,092

» UNC-Chapel Hill: $7,008

» University of Mississippi: $5,790

» University of Florida: $5,656

» University of Central Florida: $5,584