The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has released its 2023 Education Freedom Report Card, ranking U.S. states based on education choice, transparency, teacher freedom and return on investment in education.
Florida secured the top spot, while Oregon was placed last. The report reveals a clear divide in educational strategies between states with different political leanings.
The top 10 states for educational freedom, according to the report, are Florida, Arizona, Utah, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma. These states, mostly conservative, have policies that support parental choice in education, transparency in school operations and teacher autonomy.
In contrast, the bottom 10 states, New Jersey, Washington, Delaware, Minnesota, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Oregon, are predominantly left-leaning. These states voted for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election and, according to the report, their educational policies lead to poorer outcomes.
Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s state superintendent of public instruction, has proposed reforms to encourage more disciplining of students. He believes stricter discipline is key to improving learning.
“As with many subjects, the [political] left is completely dead wrong on this. It’s not that society is causing students to misbehave — it’s that students are not being responsible for their own behavior.”
Walters’ proposed reforms in Oklahoma include rights for teachers to enforce school district policies, inform law enforcement, refuse to teach violent students and not be held liable. He emphasizes the importance of transparency, saying, “We are bringing transparency to the state. We are working to ensure that districts are showing their policies, their curriculum, their budgets.”
The report also notes the differences in educational policies between conservative and liberal states. For example, California’s Senate Bill 274, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, ended suspensions for behaviors like talking back to teachers and being late. This bill aims to reduce suspensions among minority students.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis commented on his state’s top ranking, stating, “By providing universal school choice, parental rights in education and curriculum transparency, we have ensured that parents are able to fully direct the upbringing of their children.”
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