New Education Freedom Report Card Shows School Choice Driving Iowa’s Rise; Florida Remains on Top

New Education Freedom Report Card Shows School Choice Driving Iowa’s Rise; Florida Remains on Top

Nov 9, 2023 3 min read

DES MOINES, Iowa—Heritage President Dr. Kevin Roberts joined Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds today to release Heritage’s 2023 Education Freedom Report Card and celebrate the state for making the most gains in empowering families by passing historic education choice legislation.

Iowa’s ranking on the latest Report Card moved from 22nd to ninth, the largest improvement of any state. Florida remains in the top spot, due to its high marks in all categories.

Roberts praised Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature for advancing education choice policies that have allowed parents more educational options while restoring transparency to classrooms:

“Decades of mediocre results and skyrocketing spending in American education motivated parents, taxpayers, and policymakers to overhaul outdated bureaucratic systems with school choice options that fulfill our duty to give our nation’s children the highest quality education possible. Gov. Reynolds and Iowa state legislators played a leading role in the wave of education choice that swept through states in 2023—now known as the Year of Education Freedom—bringing the total number of states across the country with universal education choice to nine.

“For too long, the radical Left, teachers’ unions, and their allies in school districts opposed education choice because it undermines their grip on power, money, and indoctrination. The sweeping success of education freedom across America is a long overdue response to parents’ just demand for schools aligned with their values. I encourage other state legislatures, parents, and policymakers to examine their state rankings and consider how they might improve their scores for the betterment of the next generation of Americans.”

Commenting on the Education Freedom Report Card and her state’s rise, Gov. Reynolds made the following statement:

“It’s an honor to be recognized today by The Heritage Foundation for Iowa’s significant gains on the Education Freedom Report Card. I’m extremely proud of the work we’ve done in recent years, so all students in our state have an equal opportunity to succeed in school and life.

“America is still recovering from the pandemic’s impact on our economy, our national security, and the vitality of our workforce. But the effect it’s had on our children could last a generation. COVID-19 was a wake-up call, and for states like Iowa that chose to address it head on, it was an opportunity to transform education by putting students before systems.

“This year, I signed the Students First Act into law ensuring every Iowa family—regardless of income or zip code—has the freedom to provide the education best suited for their children. Because of our collective effort with state legislators, school choice advocates, and countless parents, nearly 19,000 students in Iowa were approved for an education savings account to attend the school of their choice this fall.

“I truly believe that school choice will be the most consequential change to our education system in decades—not only in Iowa, but across the country.”

Heritage’s annual report factors in dozens of education criteria and ranks states on how well they support education freedom, specifically on issues of education choice, regulatory freedom, academic transparency, and real return on investment for education spending.

Earlier this year, Iowa enacted a universal K-12 education savings account-style policy that will be available to all families within three years. The report also cites Iowa’s respect for the autonomy of homeschooling families and a parents’ rights bill signed by Reynolds this year as key factors supporting Iowa’s new spot in the top 10.

Florida, Arizona, Utah, Arkansas, and Indiana round out the top five states for education freedom. Conversely, Oregon ranks last for overall education freedom, followed by Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts.

Lindsey Burke, director of Heritage’s Center for Education Policy, added:

"The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy sets a high bar for ranking education freedom on its report card. It’s no longer enough for states to have a modest school choice program.

“Families deserve education choice options that are robust: universal, free from regulatory overreach, and flexible, with education savings account-style features. We also rank states on a host of other education freedom measures and numerous other metrics that demonstrate a commitment to family and taxpayer-centric policies.

"Gov. Reynolds and Iowa leadership should be commended for making the most strides over 2022, and Florida and Arizona stood strong this year, retaining their first and second place rankings overall."

Learn more and view each state’s ranking on the Education Freedom Report Card.

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