Exodus from Florida public schools predicted before 2008 science standards adoption never materialized

Nearly a decade ago – on February 19, 2008 – Florida’s State Board of Education adopted new science standards for the K-12 schools that explicitly included biological evolution by a narrow 4-3 vote.

Just before the vote, ten individuals opposing the proposed standards and ten supporting them spoke to the board.  The final speaker opposing the proposed standards was John Stemberger, who was then and continues to be the President of the Florida Family Policy Council.  During his remarks, Stemberger warned that thousands of parents who were members of evangelical churches would withdraw their children from the public schools if the proposed standards were adopted.

While some evangelical parents (and parents from other faith traditions) have chosen to have their children educated in schools tied to their churches, there hasn’t been a mass exodus from the public schools since the 2007-2008 school year, during which the SBOE meeting was held.


The plot compares the numbers of students in three K-12 sectors – public, private and homeschooled – as percentages of the total of the three sectors for the 2007-2008 and 2016-2017 school years.  The numbers come from the Florida Department of Education website.

The market shares held by the three sectors have changed only slightly in the decade since the SBOE science standards vote.  The public school share (which includes charters) has edged down from 87.1% to 86.1%.  Private schools have risen only slightly from 11.0% to 11.3%, despite the rapid growth in state-supported scholarships for private school students.  The number of homeschooled students has risen substantially from 56,650 to 87,462, but as a percentage of the total the increase is small (1.9% to 2.7%).



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