In the 1970s, Florida was an innovator in several areas of education, including competency testing, expansion of community colleges, and school finance reform. Further advances were made in 1983 and 1984, when the state increased taxes to help fund education, raised teachers' salaries, initiated the nation's strictest high school graduation requirements, and reformed the curriculum.

Student achievement in reading, writing, and mathematics is measured by national norm-referenced tests selected at the district level, and by the High School Competency Test (HSCT), measuring communication and math skills of 11th-grade students. In 2000, 79.9% of Floridians 25 years of age or older were high school graduates; 22.3% had four or more years of college.

The total enrollment for fall 1999 in Florida's public schools stood at 2,381,396. Of these, 1,725,493 attended schools from kindergarten through grade eight, and 655,903 attended high school. Minority students made up approximately 47% of the total enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools in 2001. Total enrollment was estimated at 2,434,403 in fall 2000 and expected to reach 2,441,000 by fall 2005. Enrollment in nonpublic schools in fall 2001 was 290,872. Expenditures for public education in 2000/01 were estimated at $14,562,376.

As of fall 2000, there were 886,825,259 students enrolled in college or graduate school.In the same year Florida had 164 degree-granting institutions. In 1997, minority students comprised 33.9% of total postsecondary enrollment. Florida has nine state universities, the largest being the University of Florida (Gainesville). Also part of the state university system are special university centers, such as the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, which provide advanced and graduate courses. The State University System also offers instruction at strategic sites away from the regular campuses. In 1972, Florida completed a community college system that put a public two-year college within commuting distance of virtually every resident. As a result, the state has 28 community colleges. Of Florida's 83 private four-year institutions of higher education, by far the largest is the University of Miami (Coral Gables).

The policy-making body for the state university system is the Board of Regents; the chancellor is the system's chief administrative officer. Florida's school finance law, the Florida Education Finance Act of 1973, establishes a funding formula aimed at equalizing both per-pupil spending statewide and the property tax burdens of residents of different school districts.