Heritage Foundation Ranks Florida No. 1 in Education Freedom

By Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.
September 9, 2022 Updated: September 11, 2022

PUNTA GORDA, Fla.–The Heritage Foundation released its first-ever Freedom Report Card on Sept. 9, ranking Florida as the No. 1 state for empowering parents in their children’s education and supporting education freedom.

Gov. Ron DeSantis was on hand at the Heritage Foundation’s conference in Orlando, where the announcement was made. DeSantis credits his administration’s policies and fighting to keep kids in the classroom during the pandemic for the state’s national recognition.

“When other states were locking people down and keeping their kids out of school, we made sure kids were in school because we put their well-being before politics,” DeSantis said. “While states like California, New York, and Illinois that denied in-person education to their children are now suffering from plummeting educational outcomes, Florida’s schoolchildren are thriving because we invest in our students, and we empower parents to decide what learning environment is best for their kids. Thank you to The Heritage Foundation for recognizing our success and ranking Florida No. 1 in the nation for education freedom.”

Florida was followed by Arizona and Idaho as the top states for educational freedom in the country. At the other end of the spectrum, New York, Washington, and New Jersey ranked in the bottom three and scored the lowest in transparency, high spending per pupil despite low student outcomes, less regulatory freedom, and few education choice opportunities.

Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation praised Florida state lawmakers for “advancing priorities that offer parents more educational options and provide them with more autonomy and academic transparency.”

“As a fifth-generation educator, I know firsthand the importance of giving parents more choice in their children’s education, and how much of an advantage a quality education gives to those fortunate enough to receive it. Lawmakers in every state capital—and here in D.C.—should be focused on empowering families and making sure that every child in this country has access to the highest-quality education, one that works best for them,” said Roberts in a released statement. “Florida has led the way in expanding education choice, cutting red tape, and holding schools accountable to parents with academic transparency.”

The Heritage Foundation’s first annual education report card came after the U.S. Department of Education announced significant declines in both reading and math scores among students across the nation.

The National Center for Education Statistics released data showing the largest score drop in reading among 9-year-old students since 1990, and the first-ever score drop in mathematics in the same age group.

The Heritage Foundation said improvements could be attained by “continuing to make progress in math and reading achievement, limiting growth in non-teaching staff, and lowering its unfunded teacher pension liabilities.”

The Heritage Foundation said lawmakers in the Sunshine State “set a high standard for academic transparency” and approved a proposal requiring it. However, one item the state could study more is its spending, ranking seventh overall in return on investment (ROI).

DeSantis said the Parents Bill of Rights and standing up to woke corporations like Disney helped propel the state to its No. 1 status.

“At the end of the day when you’re the governor, you know you take an oath; you’re taking an oath to support and defend the people that you represent,” DeSantis told the conference attendees. “You’re not taking an oath to subcontract out leadership to a woke corporation based in Burbank.”

DeSantis went on to say that he disagreed with Disney’s stand against the Parental Rights in Education—or so-called Don’t Say Gay bill—but he understood they had a “right to do it.”

“Now you’re saying you’re gonna continue to wage a kind of woke jihad against the parents of our state and our kids?” he continued. “You have the right to do it. You don’t have the right to force us in Florida to subsidize your activism.”

DeSantis concluded his remarks by thanking The Heritage Foundation for the honor.

“Here in Florida, we’re standing up for education freedom, because it’s partially in our classrooms that the protected perspectives of future generations are formed, and where teachers and educators in whom we put our trust as parents can help provide our kids with a strong foundation for them to exercise the duties of citizenship and a republic,” he said.

The Heritage Foundation intends to make these report cards annual, with the goal of both letting parents and policymakers know where their states are doing well and cluing them in to where changes can be made.

Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.