Choice and Education: Where Does Your State Rank?

Published April 14, 2008

(Chicago, Illinois – April 14, 2008) Parents hoping to wrest control of their children’s futures away from education bureaucrats and politicians should consider moving to Arizona or Florida, a new “report card” from The Heartland Institute suggests. They should avoid Montana or Washington State.

Choice & Education Across the States ranks state efforts to increase accountability and improve student achievement with four kinds of school choice: vouchers, charters, tax credits, and public school choice.

“School choice programs give parents the power to decide where their children are schooled,” notes author Michael Van Winkle. “School choice is accountability. When parents have the power to remove their children from a school that is failing them, without financial penalty, they and their children are better served.”

With 23 being the highest possible score on Van Winkle’s evaluation, the median score was just five points. Arizona and Florida achieved scores of 15 and 14, respectively–grades of A in Van Winkle’s curved grading system–while Washington and Montana scored just one point each.

Arizona and Florida offer parents strong voucher, charter school, and scholarship tax credit programs. All of the other top-ranking states–Wisconsin, Ohio, Utah, Minnesota, and Georgia–offer vouchers and charters, but none offers scholarship tax credits as well.

The lowest-ranking states offer only public school choice, generally in the form of magnet schools or open enrollment across school districts. Of the eight lowest-ranking states–Montana, Washington, Alabama, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and West Virginia–only Oklahoma offers any form of choice other than public school choice. Oklahoma has a charter school program.

Trevor Martin, vice president of government affairs for The Heartland Institute, explained the report card “aims to provide a roadmap for state legislators seeking to improve student achievement through school choice.”

“Many states are experimenting with choice as a way to provide a quality public education,” Van Winkle added. “A few states, like Arizona and Florida, are innovating at an impressive pace, willing to try new and better ways to educate children. Other states are not keeping pace and seem committed to preserving the largely choice-free status quo.”

Choice & Education Across the States is available for free online at The printed report is available for $10 by calling The Heartland Institute at 312/377-4000.


Editors: Michael Van Winkle was The Heartland Institute’s legislative specialist for education policy at the time this report was written. He has since been named vice president for the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance. Robert Holland, Heartland’s senior fellow for education policy, is available for comment on this study. To communicate with him, contact Harriette Johnson, Heartland’s media relations manager, at 312/377-4000 or by email at [email protected].

The Heartland Institute is a 24-year-old national nonprofit organization based in Chicago, Illinois. It is tax-exempt under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. Nothing in this news release or the report it describes is intended to influence the passage of pending legislation. For more information, call 312/377-4000 or visit our Web site at