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Heritage issued “Education Freedom” report cards last week. Iowa finished with an overall ranking of 22.

Heritage rated states in four categories — school choice, transparency, regulatory freedom and spending.

Iowa’s worst category was transparency, where it ranks 33rd. Here is Heritage’s explanation:

Iowa lawmakers have adopted a provision that prohibits the use of the racist ideas, which are inseparable from critical race theory. But the provision also may “ban” certain legitimate instructional content and does not address the important issues of academic transparency and prohibiting compelled speech.

Iowa ranks 28th in regulatory freedom:

Iowa ranks 28th in terms of regulatory freedom among states. Just 2 percent of teachers in the Hawkeye State are alternatively certified, finding their way to K–12 classrooms through an option other than a traditional university-based college of education. Iowa does not have full reciprocity of teacher licensure. Although half of its school districts with more than 15,000 students employ a “chief diversity officer,” only two school districts in the state enroll more than 15,000 students. The state does not use Common Core–aligned tests, however.

Iowa can improve its regulatory freedom ranking by significantly increasing access to alternative teacher certification options for aspiring teachers or by ending certification requirements altogether, by allowing full reciprocity of teacher licensure, and by slowing down the growth of non-teaching administrative staff, particularly chief diversity officers.

Iowa ranks 26th for spending.

Iowa ranks 26th overall in return on investment (ROI) for education spending. Iowa spends the 25th most per pupil among states, spending $15,223 in cost-of-living-adjusted terms annually. Iowa is tied for 24th place in its combined fourth-grade and eighth-grade math and reading average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) score. The Hawkeye State employs 0.86 teachers for every non-teacher in its public schools. Iowa’s unfunded teacher pension liability represents 4.1 percent of its state GDP.

Iowa can improve its ROI ranking by lowering per-pupil spending, improving academic outcomes on the NAEP, stopping growth in non-teaching staff, and lowering its unfunded teacher pension liabilities.

Iowa’s best category? School choice. The Hawkeye State ranks ninth, but could be better.

Iowa ranks #9 for school choice. Iowa does well in empowering families to choose among private and district schools but could do more to expand education choice. Iowa respects the autonomy of homeschooling families.

Iowa could improve its ranking by establishing K–12 education savings accounts, expanding eligibility for, and boosting participation in, its private-school-choice program, making it easier for more charter schools to open and operate, and giving families more choices among traditional public schools.


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