Report: Florida ranks first for academic freedom | Florida

(The Center Square) – Florida’s approach to education and educational outcomes ranked first out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in a new Heritage Foundation Education Freedom Bulletin.

Florida’s dedication to educational transparency, regulatory freedom, return on investment, rejection of critical race theory, support for school choice, parental rights and accountability education savings are all cited as reasons for its ranking.

“Florida is the highest-ranked state across the board,” the report says, because it “embraces educational freedom, respects parents’ rights, and provides a decent return on investment for taxpayers.”

In response to the highest ranking, Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “When other states were locking people down and keeping their kids out of school, we made sure the kids were in school because we put their welfare ahead of politics. While states like California, New York, and Illinois that used to deny in-person education to their children are now suffering from plummeting academic performance, school children in Florida are thriving because we invest in our students and we empower parents to decide which learning environment is best for their kids. Thank you to The Heritage Foundation for recognizing our success and ranking Florida first in the nation for educational freedom.

The report card measured four broad categories of school choice, transparency, regulatory freedom, and spending. Within these categories, it also evaluated 24 subsets. Its stated purpose is to inform parents and policy makers of successes and areas in need of improvement and reform.

“Florida is the only state to place in the top 10 in every category,” the report notes.

It ranked first overall, first in transparency, second in regulatory freedom, third in school choice, and seventh in spending.

Florida ranked first in transparency because its lawmakers created “a high standard of academic transparency,” rejected critical race theory, and passed a bill of parental rights. The legislature also ensured parents and taxpayers could review classroom assignments, a level of transparency unseen in many other states.

When it comes to regulatory freedom, Florida is “one of the freest states for teachers and students to pursue an education largely free of bureaucracy. A staggering 42% of teachers in Florida are alternatively certified, traveling to K-12 classrooms by means other than a traditional university college of education. »

It also points to the “full reciprocity of the Florida Teacher’s License, allowing anyone with a valid teaching license from another state to teach in Florida, or anyone with a certificate issued by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards” as beneficial to its education system.

He also points out that Florida does not use Common Core-aligned tests, which the state legislature has also banned.

When it comes to school choice, “Florida does exceptionally well in allowing parents to choose between private, charter, and district schools,” the report says. It also highlights K-12 Florida college savings accounts that allow parents to personalize their children’s educational opportunities and generally respect the autonomy of homeschooled families.

Florida could improve its school choice rankings, the report suggests, by expanding eligibility for its private school choice policies.

When it comes to overall education costs and return on investment, Florida spends the 48th most per student among states — $11,043 in cost-of-living-adjusted terms per year.

When comparing spending to outcomes, Florida tied for 17th in its combined mean score in fourth and eighth grade math and reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Its public schools employ 0.93 teachers for every non-teacher and its unfunded teacher pension liability is 4% of the state’s GDP.

Florida can improve its ROI rankings, the report suggests, by improving its students’ NAEP math and reading scores, limiting the growth of its non-teaching staff and reducing its unfunded pension liabilities for seniors. teachers.

Florida can maintain its top ranking by limiting the growth of “non-teaching staff, especially diversity officers” and adopting “alternative pathways for teachers to K-12 classrooms or ending the education altogether.” certification requirements.

The states ranked in the top 10 after Florida are Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, South Dakota, Mississippi, West Virginia, Montana, Louisiana, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia and North Carolina.

The bottom 10 are the District of Columbia, nearly last in nearly every category, followed by New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Alaska, Rhode Island, Washington, and Utah. Illinois.

Those at the bottom have done “very little to provide transparency, accountability and choice to families,” the report says.

Norma A. Roth