(The Center Square) — According to a recent report, Florida is the nation’s best for education freedom, but one expert says only minor changes are needed for a perfect score.
The American Legislative Exchange Council recently put Florida at the top of its 2023 ALEC Index of State Education Freedom: A 50-State Guide to Parental Empowerment rankings.
ALEC’s report gave the Sunshine State an A grade for overall performance, financing programs, virtual schooling, and open enrollment. Florida got a B grade for homeschooling and charter schools.
The report’s author Andrew Handel, the Director of the Education and Workforce Development Task Force and Director of the Center to Protect Free Speech, told The Center Square that only small changes would be needed to get a perfect score.
“I would first say that Florida has been regarded as the gold standard in education freedom for some time now and they certainly lived up to that title in our rankings. That being said, there are some places to improve,” Handel said in an email.
Handel said that Florida lost points on charter schools because virtual charter schools cap the number of students that can enroll. Homeschooling is also one small step from an A rating.
“For homeschooling, Florida lost points because, under the state’s homeschooling statute, parents are required to notify their local school district of their intent to homeschool,” Handel said. “Removing that notification requirement would result in the state receiving full credit and an A rating in the homeschooling category.”
Despite the state’s top marks for education freedom, a sour taste remains for some educators who are calling for additional reforms from lawmakers.
In the 2023 Florida Education Association’s End-Of-Session report, FEA President Andrew Spar wrote a scathing foreword regarding legislation passed during that session, calling it “the greatest threat to education we have seen in our lifetime,” and alleged that educators were made a target.
The 2024 regular session focus for the FEA revolves around pay increases, long-term contracts, education freedom protection, enhancement of the Florida Retirement System, more teacher-led assessments over state-mandated tests, and respecting the rights of people to make decisions locally.
With the 2024 session scheduled to start on Jan. 9, one bill that would increase teacher salaries has already been filed.
House Bill 13 sponsored by Rep. Jervonte Edmonds, D-West Palm Beach, referred to as the “Save Our Teachers Act,” seeks to raise the salary of classroom teachers from an annual amount of $47,500 to a minimum of $65,000.