NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Education Freedom Index" Debuts

September 19, 2000

The Manhattan Institute is releasing a report today which compares the 50 states on the degree of freedom their residents enjoy when it comes to educating their children. Policy analysts are enthusiastic, saying the survey promises to be a tool to empower parents -- and, quite possibly, facilitate meaningful reforms.

  • The 10 states allowing the most freedom in education are ranked as follows: Arizona, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas, Delaware, Colorado, Maine and Connecticut.
  • The 10 pursuing the least free education policies are, starting at 50th place: Hawaii, West Virginia, Nevada, Kentucky, Maryland, Rhode Island, Virginia, South Carolina, Alaska and Georgia.
  • States which achieved high rank on the list were willing to implement such diverse reforms as charter schools, vouchers or tax credits for attendance at private schools, non-interference with home schooling, or making it easier for families to choose among public schools or school districts.
  • Policies guiding the least-free states included antipathy or disinterest toward charter schools -- or heavy-handed regulation of home schools in the case of Hawaii.

The researchers found educational freedom is accompanied by academic achievement. After controlling for demographics, spending and other variables, a state's higher ranking on the index is associated with stronger student performance on both the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the SAT.

If a state increased its index score by one full point -- on a scale with a range of about three points -- the researchers predicted its students' SAT scores would rise by 49 points and the percentage of pupils who are proficient on the NAEP reading and math tests would go up by 5.5 percent.

Source: Jay P. Greene and Chester E. Finn Jr. (both of the Manhattan Institute), "Grading States on Their Education Freedom," Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2000.


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