- Florida ranked first among all U.S states in The Heritage Foundation’s Education Freedom Report Card that was released on Friday
- The conservative thinktank categorized education success into four broad categories: education choice, regulatory freedom, academic transparency and education spending return on investment
- Various pieces of legislative action including curriculum transparency and the ‘Stop WOKE Act’ earned the state high marks in all four metrics
Florida took the top spot in The Heritage Foundation’s Education Freedom Report Card that was released on Friday. The organization took into account four broad categories when ranking what it referred to as education freedom: education choice, regulatory freedom, academic transparency and education spending return on investment.
In the inaugural 2022 edition of the Education Freedom Report Card, Florida is the top-ranked state across the board. The Heritage Foundation lauded Florida’s commitment to establishing and maintaining parental rights in their child’s education, a positive return on investment, and the state’s available options among private, charter, and district schools.
“If sunlight is the best disinfectant, it’s no wonder why the Sunshine State is one of the freest states for teachers and children to pursue an education that is largely devoid of red tape,” Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts said to Fox News today. “Florida has led the way in expanding education choice, cutting red tape, and holding schools accountable to parents with academic transparency.”
The group also ranked Florida first among states for academic transparency. The conservative think tank praised Florida’s rejection of critical race theory-based curriculums through Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ ‘Stop WOKE Act’ that was signed into law this year.
Florida also picked up points for House Bill 1467, which requires that educational material and learning objectives be available to the public.
The Sunshine State’s alternative teaching certification was well-received by the group, leading to Florida’s second place ranking in the ‘Regulatory Freedom’ metric.
DeSantis in August launched a pair of teacher recruitment initiatives, expanding on the previously-announced certification opportunities for military veterans to attain teaching certificates.
The first initiative expands the military veteran-to-teacher pipeline, now encompassing the whole of Florida’s first responders including law enforcement and firefighters. Under the initiative, first responders that become teachers will have certification exam fees subsidized by the state, as well as being eligible for a $4,000 salary bonus. To mitigate the shortage of teachers in critical core subjects like reading and science, those who become teachers in those areas will be eligible for an additional $1,000 bonus.
The second initiative plans to implement a teacher apprenticeship program that allows prospective educators to work directly with students alongside a tenured education professional. Floridians with an associate’s degree are eligible to partake in the program.
Through the two-year-long apprenticeship, participants will go on to receive a bachelor’s degree. To incentivize mentor participation, experienced teachers that oversee an apprentice will receive a $4,000 bonus for each year of involvement.
“The Sunshine State ranks second in regulatory freedom, making it one of the freest states for teachers and students to pursue education largely devoid of red tape. An impressive 42 percent of Florida teachers are alternatively certified, making their way to K–12 classrooms through a means other than a traditional university-based college of education,” the report says. “The state has full reciprocity of teacher licensure, allowing anyone with a valid teaching license from another state to teach in Florida, or anyone who holds a certificate issued by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Florida does not use Common Core–aligned tests.”
In the analysis, Florida ranks seventh overall in return on investment for education spending. Florida spends the 48th most per pupil among states, spending $11,043 in cost-of-living-adjusted terms annually.
Florida is tied for 17th place in its combined fourth-grade and eighth-grade math and reading average National Assessment of Educational Progress score. The Sunshine State’s public schools employ 0.93 teachers for every non-teacher while the state’s teacher pension liability represents 4 percent of its state GDP.
In U.S News & World Report’s educational rankings for all 50 states and Washington D.C., Florida ranked third, behind only New Jersey and Massatchussetts. The U.S. News report offers an objective snapshot of the status of Florida’s education system, though simultaneously corroborates The Heritage Foundation’s praises of the state’s success in education.