Last week, The Heritage Foundation released a 2023 report detailing the growing efforts across the country to boost school choice, parental rights, and student success.
The report, written by Heritage researchers Jonathan Butcher and Jason Bedrick, opened with families’ growing dissatisfaction with public schools as grades plummet. Adding insult to injury, the report went on to note how several schools are hiding information from parents about their children, all the while pushing racially divisive and gender-confusing ideologies. In response, many states in 2023 enacted school choice policies and parental rights legislation while removing racially divisive initiatives, making it a year of “Education Freedom.”
You can read the full report here.
In the first section, titled “Parent Choice in Education,” the report wrote that a number of states launched school choice policies that give families more flexibility to send their kids to their preferred school. This past year, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Utah passed policies that enable every K-12 student to be eligible for school choice. Florida and Ohio grew their current programs to become universally available. Arizona and West Virginia already had universal school choice, totaling eight states that have school choice for every student.
The researchers continued that many of these school choice policies are in the form of education savings accounts, or ESAs. ESA programs allocate state per-pupil funding for the family’s desired school, be it private or homeschooling. According to the report, thirteen states have some sort of ESA policy. Additionally, twenty-two states have tax-credit scholarships, which give parents a tax credit for donating to nonprofit organizations that assist with private school tuition.
In the following section, “Protecting Parents Rights,” the report said that more than a dozen states this year instituted policies to protect parents’ right to direct their child’s upbringing. The researchers mentioned that a number of special interest groups have brought in ideologies that confuse children about their gender while keeping parents uninformed. States such as Iowa and North Dakota have responded with these parental rights policies. The report also noted this year that states like Arkansas and Kentucky considered The Heritage Foundation’s proposed policy, the Given Name Act, which requires teachers to receive consent from parents before referring to children by a different name or pronoun.
In the third section, under “Protecting the Diversity of Ideas, Equality under the Law, and Opportunities for All Students in Higher Education,” the report listed how a couple of states are working to comply with the recent Supreme Court decision to eliminate affirmative action, or schools using racial preferences for admission. As such, Florida and Texas have eliminated diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives (DEI) that researchers said encourage racial segregation and discrimination.
The report closed with some policy recommendations, such as expanding school choice to every student and increasing voucher spending flexibility. Other recommendations included allowing parents the final say in terms of how their child is brought up, and that tax dollars should not be used for DEI, nor should DEI guide hiring practices.
In 2022, The Heritage Foundation released an “Education Freedom Report Card,” which informs families on how well their state fairs with school choice and parental rights. The report is meant to be updated to reflect current state laws.