DC’s conservative Heritage Foundation has ranked all 50 states on the concept of “education freedom.” Florida comes out on top. North Carolina is 15th out of 50, but outranks neighbors Virginia and South Carolina. (Tennessee beats ALL three.)
Here’s the criteria Heritage used to create the rankings:
There has never been a better moment for education freedom. In the modern era, America has never been closer than it is today to realizing Milton Friedman’s vision for universal education choice through education savings accounts (ESAs).
In his seminal essay, The Role of Government in Education (1955), Friedman argued that government-administered schooling should be viewed as incompatible with a society that otherwise “takes freedom of the individual, or more realistically the family, as its ultimate objective, and seeks to further this objective by relying primarily on voluntary exchange among individuals for the organization of economic activity”—as the United States does.1
It was in this essay that Friedman formalized his idea of separating the financing of education from the administration of schooling through school vouchers. As he explained: “[T]he administration of schools is neither required by the financing of education, nor justifiable in its own right in a predominantly free enterprise society.”[…]
Overall, we measured four broad categories that encompass more than two dozen discrete factors:
1. Education Choice
Our education choice metric assesses whether states have an ESA program, general private school choice and the proportion of eligible and participating students, the percentage of homeschooled children, open-enrollment laws in the public education sector, and school district size, with smaller districts being preferable to large, centralized districts. Our education choice metric also includes an analysis of private-school-choice-program design, considering the extent to which states may overregulate school choice through requirements, such as state tests, price controls, admissions requirements, and accreditation. We assess the environment for charter schools using the Center for Education Reform’s and the Educational Freedom Institute’s charter school ranking systems, and we assess the environment for homeschooling using the ranking designed by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. Arizona took first place for education choice, even without its now universal eligibility ESA provision. For parents looking for the widest array of education options, Arizona is the place to be.
2. Regulatory Freedom
Overburdensome regulations, often promulgated in the name of “accountability,” can hinder education freedom in a number of areas. To assess the regulatory freedom of a given state, we consider barriers to teaching, such as whether a state encourages alternative teacher certification and the number of teachers who have benefitted, or whether a state largely requires aspiring teachers to attend university-based colleges of education. We also examine whether a state allows full reciprocity of teacher licensure with other states. We report the percentage of districts in each state that employ a “chief diversity officer”—a position that, as Jay Greene and James Paul have said, largely exists to “provide political support and organization to one side of the debate over the contentious issues of race and opportunity.”7 States also received points in this ranking for no longer using—or never having used—restrictive Common Core–aligned tests. Mississippi topped our list of states for regulatory freedom.
Transparency is a critical tool for parents to know what their children are being taught in school. We use several metrics to assess states’ commitment to academic transparency. We consider whether a state has a strong anti–critical race theory law, which includes prohibitions on compelled speech and protections for students from school practices that violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We gauge parental empowerment by looking at the number of parent organizations per pupil and “indoctrination incidents” as logged by Parents Defending Education. And we rate states’ level of accountability to parents by examining the level of parent access to school curricula and materials, state-level requirements for public participation in meetings, a rating of state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws, and whether school board elections are on-cycle with general elections. Florida took first place in the category of education transparency, providing parents with strong tools to know what their children are being taught in the state’s public schools, a strong FOIA law, on-cycle school board elections, and more.
4. Return on Investment (ROI) for Education Spending
Our report card also examines the return on taxpayer investments in K–12 education in the states. We consider nominal and cost-of-living-adjusted (COLA) spending per pupil, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) outcomes and dollars spent per NAEP point, teacher-to-non-teacher staff ratios, and unfunded teacher pension liabilities as a proportion of state gross domestic product. Idaho took first place in this category, providing a high ROI for taxpayer spending on K–12 education.[…]