Guest presenters:

  • Jonathan Guarine, Research Economist, Florida TaxWatch
  • Meg Cannan, Policy Researcher, Florida TaxWatch

FCAN host: Kristen Hengtgen, Senior Researcher

What if all of Florida’s demographic groups achieved comparable levels of education and training beyond high school?

On March 29, FCAN hosted a webinar highlighting a recently released Florida TaxWatch brief that explored that question by examining educational achievement rates across Florida’s demographic populations, pinpointing current gaps, and analyzing the impacts of these gaps on Florida’s economy.

The two Florida TaxWatch research leads for the project, which was sponsored by FCAN, shared some of their early findings.

“When more of the workforce participates in training or education beyond high school, the state reaps many economic, fiscal, and societal benefits,” said Jonathan Guarine, research economist for Florida TaxWatch.

Ensuring education access for Florida’s underrepresented populations

In 2019, Florida adopted the statewide SAIL to 60 goal, which aims to increase the percentage of working-age Floridians with a high-value postsecondary certificate, degree, or training experience to 60% by 2030. Guarine said Florida TaxWatch utilized SAIL to 60 as a baseline for its own calculations.

Florida’s workforce is projected to be 54% non-White by 2030. Yet there are still significant gaps in degree attainment, especially for Black and Hispanic Floridians.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 63% of Florida’s Asian population has earned an associate degree or higher. Meanwhile, the proportion of Black (31%) and Hispanic (38%) Floridians with an associate degree or higher is well behind their Asian and White, Non-Hispanic (46%) counterparts.

“Minority populations are growing to compose greater shares of the population,” Guarine said. “Ensuring their access is not only an issue of equity but also an opportunity to enable the development of Florida’s workforce.”

Achieving educational equity would lead to billions in additional earnings

It is important to see comparable levels of educational attainment as an indicator that educational policies are effective for all Florida residents. Leaving minority populations behind decreases the opportunity of higher wages for persons within their population, which can hinder self-sufficiency and slow their families’ accumulation of wealth.

The individuals in these underrepresented populations aren’t the only ones with something to gain from equitable educational attainment across all of Florida’s demographic populations. According to the Florida TaxWatch brief, the state would stand to benefit from improved employment rates, higher tax revenues, and lower expenditures on public assistance programs.

In fact, Florida TaxWatch estimates that if all of Florida’s demographic groups reached the 60% attainment goal, the state would benefit from $52.6 billion in additional earnings.

“To place that in context, that number is 47% of the state’s entire budget that was just passed two weeks ago,” Guarine said. “So the economic benefits are significant and would likely compound over time.”

Recognizing and replicating building blocks that support education

Pursuing training or education requires having enough building blocks or supports.

“If students have a strong academic profile, that gives them a few extra blocks,” said Meg Cannan, policy researcher for Florida TaxWatch. “If a student has a mentor, they have a few more. If students have available funds, that builds the tower much higher.”

Cannan said part of the Florida TaxWatch research project involved determining which building blocks best support students’ continued education, as well as which building blocks can be established through partnerships and policy recommendations.

Among the recommended building blocks:

  • Engage Students in Career Planning
  • Connect Students with Mentors
  • Foster Academic Strength by encouraging advanced classes
  • Provide Data with Clear Connections Between Education and Employment
  • Enable Multiple Pathways to Educational Attainment, including apprenticeships and Career and Professional Education (CAPE)
  • Promote Persistence
  • Empower Community and Business Partnerships

Show Notes

To learn more about the economic impacts of more equal attainment in Florida — or to view the recording and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources:

Research Brief — The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of Education and Training Beyond High School in Florida (Florida TaxWatch)

Be sure to visit our Past Webinars page for access to recordings and downloadable material from FCAN’s previous presentations.

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