Important nationwide gains in parental control over children’s education

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The Center for Education Reform, a leading policy and advocacy organization that has been spearheading efforts nationally to expand parental opportunities for involvement in their children’s education, has ranked Florida as the number one state in the nation on its 2022 Parent Power Index, which ranks the states on the degree to which they permit and encourage parental involvement.

Other states and political jurisdictions that earned top-ten rankings were Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Minnesota, the District of Columbia, Colorado, and Utah.

Ohio moved up from the ninth position last year to fourth this year and Colorado jumped from seventeenth to ninth, while North Carolina dropped from the top ten.

North Dakota was ranked on the bottom in the annual assessment, followed by Nebraska, Alaska, Washington, and Wyoming.

“No family’s income level, zip code, or child’s level of academic achievement should limit that family’s access to education opportunity,” said Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform. “Better schools come about when parents have power. Parents have power when states are open and transparent about their policies and provide parents with the necessary information, authority and funding they need to exercise more control over their children’s schooling.”

Allen stressed that after the pandemic-related school closings, lockdowns and other disruptions “parents, teachers and students all want more freedom and flexibility in education. It became obvious during the pandemic that children do best when the ‘system’ is flexible, responsive to their needs and provides them with the educational options they need to succeed,” she said.

“As the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress test results starkly reconfirmed, business as usual is a formula for failure.” U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona described the NAEP reading and math results, released October 24, as “appalling” and “unacceptable.” Allen has called the results evidence of “academic malnourishment.” Parents are demanding change.

The Parent Power Index, published annually since 1999, ranks states on multiple factors that gauge the degree to which parents are permitted to make critical decisions affecting their children’s schooling. The factors upon which the states are rated include demonstrated commitments to the following:

  1. Choice programs: whether publicly supported choice programs, such as scholarships, vouchers, tax credits and education savings accounts are available, allowing parents to choose the educational options best suited to the needs of their children;
  2. Charter schools: whether charter schools are being encouraged to expand and flourish, provided maximum autonomy to thrive and are being equitably supported;
  3. Innovation: whether the state is a leader in providing the flexibility educators need to take advantage of personalized, blended, project-based and other 21st century learning approaches and whether student progress is being measured by what they accomplish, not when and how it’s done; and
  4. Transparency: whether the state’s leaders are transparent and open about their policies and curriculum choices and whether district and school test scores, graduation rates, and other important data are readily available to parents.

All of this depends on another critical factor, Center for Education officials said: Leadership—whether a state’s political and educational leaders are willing to create and expand programs that allow educational choice and individualized learning programs to thrive.

“Parents are fed up. They see their states and communities spending record amounts of money—more than $20,000 per year per student in many districts—and they’re not seeing commensurate results. Not when two-thirds of fourth- and eighth-grade students can’t read proficiently,” Allen said, referring back to the NAEP tests. “Parents won’t stand for it. They shouldn’t stand for it. And the political system is taking note.”

That’s where Allen sees some good news, not only in terms of the important advances in educational freedom several states made during the past year, but also in the recent election results.

In Illinois, for example, Gov. J. B. Pritzker, during his successful campaign for reelection, reversed his previous opposition to the state’s tax-credit scholarship program, which provides financial support for students to attend private and parochial schools. And in Pennsylvania, Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro during the campaign strongly endorsed “adding choices for parents and educational opportunity for students,” as well as “funding [for] lifeline scholarships like those approved in other states and [previously] introduced in Pennsylvania,” policies that contributed heavily to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ large reelection margin.

Allen said, “Perhaps it was a reaction to the disastrous NAEP results, or perhaps it was their sense of sudden political vulnerability, but all across the country political leaders suddenly discovered that the same parent concerns that defeated Terry McAuliffe in his bid for a second term as Virginia governor last year were alive and well in their own backyard. Either way, we welcome their involvement and support.”

In addition to its policy and advocacy work, the Center for Education Reform also administers the annual $1 million Yass Prize for Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless Education, which rewards the most innovative and successful school or educational provider in the United States, and the STOP Awards Initiative, which provides more than $16 million in annual support to educators who achieve and deliver outstanding results for underserved children. The 2022 Yass Prize and STOP Awards will be presented Dec. 14 in New York.

About CER – Working to advance education innovation and opportunity for nearly 3 decades, the Center for Education Reform also today administers the $1 Million Yass Prize for Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless Education which celebrates the country’s education provider which best demonstrates the STOP principles. In conjunction with the Yass Prize, the STOP Awards Initiative provides over $16 million in support annually to honor educators who achieve excellence.