Conservative think tank gives Iowa high grade for ‘education freedom’

A national group championing conservative causes in public schools is highlighting Iowa in its latest education report card.
Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 6:46 AM CST
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DES MOINES, Iowa (Gray Iowa Capitol Bureau) - The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that aims to promote conservative public policies, places Iowa ninth in the nation for what it calls “education freedom” after the passage of its school voucher bill. The state is up 13 places over last year.

The group looked at four categories to make the assessment - education choice, transparency, teacher freedom, and return on investment. States with private school vouchers and those that have more students who are homeschooled get a boost. Those who have “chief diversity officers” or allow students to go by nicknames without parental permission get dinged.

Here’s what Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts says made Iowa’s rank rise from 22nd to the top 10.

“Well, the one thing is their universal school choice bill and the leadership and courage by your governor and by state legislators who decided to take a hard vote on behalf of Iowa kids,” Roberts said.

Florida ranks “first” and Oregon ranks last. Roberts says Iowa’s move in the ranking is credited toward Governor Kim Reynolds.

“Your governor really leaning in to the state legislature, convincing state legislators who might have had a few questions that this is the most important bill. This is the most important policy for them to pass for the present and for the future for Iowa’s kids. She deserves all of the congratulations that we’ve given her today,” Roberts said.

Roberts says there’s still room for Iowa’s Heritage Foundation ranking to go up.

“Well, they can go from number nine to number one by making sure that every child is eligible for an Education Savings Account and doing that one year ahead of schedule. The additional thing that they can do is continue to increase transparency, that is for parents, anyone who wants to see what’s going on in the classroom, and giving teachers a lot of freedom,” Roberts said.

In a statement, Iowa’s teacher’s union - the Iowa State Education Association - calls the rankings made up, and says the policies will weaken public schools.

Roberts says outside of education, Iowa has done a good job lowering taxes. That, he says Governor Reynolds should continue to take on.