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School Leaders and Competition: Perspectives from Florida

“I think choice competition is a good thing, let parents make a choice.”

These aren’t the words of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, or another school choice advocate. They belong to the superintendent of one of the largest public school systems in the country.

Alberto Carvalho is superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) in Florida, the fourth-largest school system in the nation. As school choice gains steam in his state and across the country, Carvalho says his schools can compete with anyone.  As he tells NBC 6 in Florida, “I think we have a superior product for [parents] to choose from.”

Carvalho is not the only public school leader who exudes confidence in his product.

Nearby Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) has reversed declining student enrollments by taking advantage of the increased competition. As BCPS Superintendent Robert Runcie tells NBC 6, the change sparked a new mindset and approach:

“I no longer refer to Broward County Public Schools as traditional, all of our schools are innovative schools. There are opportunities for every kid.”

Both BCPS and MDCPS have launched a dizzying array of educational choices within their systems, including new magnet schools and specialized programs for students. BCPS recently launched a debate program that is offered not only in high schools, but also in middle schools and some elementary schools.

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Both districts embrace the classic business principle of undercutting the competition by increasing the number of choices and options offered to clients—or, in this case, to students and families.

As school districts nationwide consider ways to contend with school choice, Carvalho says they shouldn’t fear the competition, but embrace it. “We are extremely competitive,” he says, adding, “to a certain extent, the choice movement forced us to become better, but I think now we out-perform it.”

For more on how BCPS and MDCPS embrace school choice, check out the full video report below:

What steps is your school or district taking to ward off increased competition in the age of school choice? Tell us in the comments.