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Public school enrollment expected to increase by 31,504 students in 2012

Enrollment at Florida's public schools is expected to increase next year by an even greater number than initially predicted, according to today's report from the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

According to the latest projections, there could be about 31,504 more students statewide during the 2012-2013 academic year. That growth is mainly due to a higher number of students entering kindergarten and first grade, largely driven by the birthrate between September 2005 and August 2007. But other facts are also contributing, such as the number of students whose graduation was delayed because they were held back in the 3rd grade for failing the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (2,542 student increase).

Because education funding is such a big chunk of the state's budget and money is distributed to districts based largely on a per-student model, the enrollment projections will play a big part during upcoming debate. Gov. Rick Scott said he won't sign a budget that doesn't significantly increase education spending and proposed a $1 billion increase.

The previous projections for 2012-2013 announced in October predicted enrollment going up by a lower number: 30,566.

Public school enrollment projections includes charter schools and Florida Virtual School, and both are expected to see increases next school year. Florida Virtual School is projected to have 3,798 additional students, and high-performing charter schools are expected to attract 1,137 students that currently are homeschooled or attend private schools.

But there are also students that will be lured away from the public school system, the report said. About 1,420 students are expected to attend kindergarten at private schools as a result of the state's voucher programs.

During the meeting, a representative from Office of Economic and Demographic Research said about 84 percent of children born in Florida now enter the public school system. Years ago, the figure was above 90 percent.

Enrollment projections for each county were also update. Here are some 2012-2013 estimates for South Florida compared to 2011-2012 figures:

  • Miami-Dade: 351,891, up from 347,007
  • Broward: 258,565, up from 257,499
  • Palm Beach: 176,994, up from 175,023
  • Monroe: 8,151, up from 8,057