2015 School Choice Series: South Atlantic

Noodle’s 2015 series provides a state-by-state overview of school choice options. In this article, you'll find descriptions of the available options in each of the South Atlantic states, relevant state and regional news items and debates, and resources for further research.

Whether you’re an advocate or a critic of school choice, it only directly affects you if it’s an option where you live.

Noodle has put together a state-by-state overview of school choice options in 2015. You can find descriptions of the available options, relevant state and regional news items and debates, and resources for further research. This article focuses on the South Atlantic states (plus the capital): Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. You can also follow this link to learn more about what school choice is.

School Choice in Delaware

Delaware's school choice options are limited to charter schools as well as interdistrict and intradistrict open enrollment. At present, the state does not have provisions for private school choice, nor does it participate in an online school program. In some cases, however, high school students may take supplemental courses through the University of Delaware's Online High School.

Charter schools in Delaware often hold lotteries in January if the number of applications exceeds the number of open slots. The state also employs an "options" system in the charter school application so that families may indicate preferences for location, academic interest, or schooling with siblings.

Delaware's charter system of approximately 20 schools has recently experienced closures, however, due to academic achievement and financial accountability shortcomings. In addition, the system has been charged with "resegregating" black and white students. The ACLU recently filed a lawsuit against the state's Department of Education and the Red Clay school district in Delaware. The suit argues that Delaware's charter schools are easily identifiable by race, and that schools with primarily white students greatly outperform those with primarily black students. Detractors claim that the admissions requirements of high-performing charter schools lead to the discrimination.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in Florida

With multiple offerings and programs, Florida is considered one of the national leaders in school choice. The state's school choice programs are also, however, marked with controversy, lawsuits, and legislative battles.

Florida reportedly has the largest private school choice system in the nation. It offers several private school choice programs, including vouchers, tax credit scholarships, and education savings accounts. With these programs, state funds can offset all or a part of private school tuition, including tuition at religious schools. As in many other instances, voucher programs have incited debate about the separation of church and state. Other objections concern teacher union arguments against the diversion of state funds from public schools.

The state also has upwards of 580 charter schools serving well above 200,000 students across the state. Florida allows both interdistrict and intradistrict open enrollment. Students may transfer between districts, especially if their home districts are failing.

Florida has the nation’s largest online education program, offering courses to students in grades K–12 via the Florida Virtual School, Florida Virtual Academy, and Florida Connections Academy.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in Georgia

Georgia's school choice options include charter and online schools as well as interdistrict and intradistrict open enrollment. The state's private school program offers vouchers and tax credit scholarships, both of which are controversial. In addition to tax credits, the state offers the Special Needs Scholarship Program.

Last year, a parent group filed a lawsuit against the voucher program, claiming that it funnels money away from public schools in favor of religious ones.

Despite these controversies, a recent survey suggests that Georgia parents and students are largely in favor of school choice options.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in Maryland

Currently, Maryland does not have an option for private school choice — but the practice is nevertheless a hot-button issue on the state's agenda. At present, Maryland has approximately 50 charter schools, most of which are in Baltimore proper. The current governor has plans to increase the charter system; advocates of charter schools often report that parent engagement and student achievement are top priorities.

Maryland has limited online school options via Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunities, which offers supplemental online classes.

At present, Maryland does not have an open enrollment option in place.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in North Carolina

North Carolina has a voucher program that enables low-income students to attend private schools. The voucher is worth $4,200, but there are plans to expand the program by offering more money and by broadening eligibility criteria for students. The state also has a special education scholarship for students with special needs.

A current lawsuit, brought by the state’s Department of Education and associated groups, argues that vouchers violate the constitution. Debate is intense on both sides. Some advocates feel that vouchers can break the cycle of poverty for poor students, while detractors worry that privatizing education ultimately hurts students (especially those who are disadvantaged), teachers, and public schools.

The state does not allow open enrollment district transfers, but a recent bill seeks to put such policies in place.

North Carolina offers public magnet schools and 107 charter schools in public districts. The state also has one of the largest public online education programs in the nation; nearly 100,000 students are currently enrolled in the North Carolina Virtual Public School.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in South Carolina

According to a recent survey, the majority of South Carolinians are in favor of school choice, the associated controversies notwithstanding.

South Carolina recently approved the Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Program, which offers up to $10,000 for students with special needs to attend independent schools. A recent bill that would have allowed vouchers or tax credits for private schools failed to pass in the legislature, however.

South Carolina allows interdistrict open enrollment. The state currently offers 55 charter schools. South Carolina also has several offerings for online education, such as Virtual South Carolina, in addition to five online charter schools.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in Virginia

Virginia has only six charter schools. A recently proposed constitutional amendment to allow more charter schools was narrowly defeated. The state allows local school boards to decide whether or not to allow charters; some school choice advocates feel that this process discourages local districts from bringing in new charter schools, which create competition.

Virginia does have a healthy system of magnet options for students at all grade levels. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a regional magnet school, has received national acclaim for its top academic STEM-focused offerings.

Since 1973, the state has also offered summer and academic-year Governor's School Programs that draw gifted students from regional districts.

Virginia currently offers limited online education through the Virginia Virtual Academy. The state’s House Education Committee has looked into expanding the available online options.

Virginia does not allow open enrollments, which would enable students to transfer from their home districts to others more suitable. It does, however, offer tax credit scholarships for students who choose private school.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in Washington, D.C.

In Washington, D.C., about half of the district's students choose a school outside of the one to which they're assigned.

The capital district employs the D.C. School Choice Incentive Program, a competitive scholarship that covers education-related expenses for low-income students at the schools of their choice. Although there are a lot of options, disadvantaged families may not have access to key information. Many of those who are able to hire consultants do; these professionals help them navigate the array of options.

The public school department operates a search tool that allows students and parents to compare schools and see ratings as well as profiles.

The district offers online education through such schools as Washington Virtual Academies and CAPSC online.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in West Virginia

School choice in West Virginia is limited. The state does not have private school or charter school options. West Virginia ranks close to the lowest in the nation for private school options.

There are limited choices available for students online via the West Virginia Virtual Academy, and others.

The state does allow open enrollments for both for interdistrict and intradistrict transfers. Policies are voluntary for both types of transfers. Parents can request transfers, which in turn must be approved by administrators.

The region does not have magnet schools, but it does have magnet programs in which students with specialized interests may attend alternate schools for additional instruction on a part-time basis.

Resources for Further Research

Noodle pros ad Find Noodle Tutors
Article Topics: