Report Gives Florida Nation’s Best Overall Grade for Education Freedom

Andrew Powell | October 4, 2023

(The Center Square) — After a legislative session where Florida lawmakers passed universal school choice, the state was recognized as the nation’s best in a recent report for its policies on education 

The nonprofit American Legislative Exchange Council, which previously published the Report Card on American Education over the past 25 years, has a new publication, The Index of State Education Freedom: A 50-State Guide to Parental Empowerment.

In the overall rankings, Florida was first with an A grade, followed by Arkansas and Indiana. Arizona was 4th with a B grade, followed by Iowa, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Idaho and Utah. West Virginia was ranked 10th.

The publication released Thursday, evaluates each state on its policies designed to empower students and their families regarding freedom in education. The index focuses on five categories: Funding and financing programs, charter schools, homeschooling, virtual schooling and open enrollment.

“This new ranking further proves that Florida is the national leader in education,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a news release. “By focusing on academic achievement, expanding school choice and empowering parents, Florida continues to see unprecedented success in our classrooms.”

In the publication’s introduction, author Andrew Handel, the Director of the Education and Workforce Development Task Force and Director of the Center to Protect Free Speech at ALEC, stated that the rankings are based on state policy, not test scores.

“Public education dollars can and should follow students, not the system…Our reimaging of the Report Card on American Education focuses exclusively on the policies each state has in place to ensure their students can access the best educational environment for them,” Handel said.

The Sunshine State ranks number one for funding and finance programs and is tied with Arizona, Arkansas and Idaho. However, Florida was ranked 13th for charter schools.

Florida gets a B grade for homeschooling and ranks 12th. According to the publication, “States earn an A when regulations that can impede the homeschooling experience, like testing, academic, or notification requirements, are not present.”

While parents are free to set their child’s curriculum in Florida, parents must notify their respective school district’s superintendent and homeschooling students are still required to undergo testing.

For virtual schooling — which the report says differs from online learning used during the COVID-19 pandemic — Florida ranks first, tied with Arkansas. Open enrollment, which refers to policies that allow students to attend schools outside of their school zone, has Florida again ranked first.