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What Is School Choice? Everything You Need to Know

If you check the news, “school choice” is a hot topic of discussion. There are groups for and against school choice, but many people have no idea what school choice actually is. In short, school choice allows families to send their children to the schools of their choosing. That’s the simple definition. There is much more to learn about school choice, including the types of schools involved, what states offer it, and how parents ensure that their children receive funding at the schools of their choice. Keep reading our school choice guide to learn more!

What exactly is school choice? 

First, a little history here! Historically, students attended the public schools that correlated with the districts they lived in. That changed in1990 when the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) formed. The MPCP was the first modern school choice program in the United States. Moving forward, every state has some form school choice, and since 2010, states offering private school vouchers have doubled. 

So what is the definition of school choice? School choice allows public funds (mainly tax dollars) to be allocated to families so they can choose schools that are the best fit for their children. The concept aims to level the playing field through access to greater educational opportunities for all students. 

Here are some of the schooling options that fall under “choice”: 

School choice funding

There are different types of school choice funding resources, including the following: 

  • Education saving accounts (ESAS) 
  • Individual tax credits and deductions 
  • School vouchers
  • Tax credit education savings accounts (ESAS) 
  • Tax credit scholarships

All of these school choice options are ways in which students can receive fully-funded access to different types of educational institutions for free or a heavily discounted price. 

Breaking down the different types of school choice

Education savings accounts (ESAS)  

ESAs is a savings account that is government-authorized and filled with public funds. 

The ESAs allows parents to withdraw their children from a public school district and then access this government-authorized savings account with restricted but multiple uses. 

The funds are delegated to be used to cover tuition and fees of different educational institutions including the following: 

  • Private school
  • Online learning programs
  • Community college costs 
  • Higher education expenses
  • Any approved learning services

Currently 8 states offer ESAs

  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

Individual tax credits and deductions 

Tax credit and deductions allow parents to receive state tax relief for approved educational expenses. These expenses can include the following: 

  • Private school tuition
  • Books 
  • Supplies
  • Computers
  • Tutors
  • Transportation

Currently there are 9 states with individual tax credit/deductions:

  • Alabama
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Ohio
  • South Carolina
  • Wisconsin

Also see: What is a parochial school?

School vouchers

A school voucher is a program in which public funding is set aside to help parent’s fund their children’s private education. 

Under a school voucher program, funds allocated to a school district would be given to a participating family in the form of a voucher. This voucher would then be used to pay partial or full tuition for their child’s private school, including both religious and non-religious options. 

Therefore, school vouchers can help low-income families afford to send their children to nearby private schools without worrying about the tuition. 

Currently 16 states utilize school vouchers: 

  • Arkansas
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

Tax-credit education savings account (ESAS) 

Tax credit education savings accounts are a type of savings account in which taxpayers receive tax credits when they donate to nonprofit organizations. Families can then use these funds to pay for education-related expenses. 

Currently only 2 states offer tax-credit ESAS:

  • Kentucky
  • Missouri

Tax-credit scholarships

Tax-credit scholarships allow taxpayers to receive tax credit when they have donated to nonprofits that provide scholarships for private schools. 

Currently there are 21 states that offer tax-credit scholarships:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Virginia

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • “School Choice” offers various options for parents to send their children to schools that differ from their public neighborhood school
  • This can include the availability of other public institutions, such as charter schools and magnet schools, as well as subsidizing a private education
  • Subsidies can come in multiple forms, including tax credits, education savings accounts, and vouchers from the government
  • Your School Choice options will vary significantly based on the state in which you live. Make sure to check resources in your specific state to see what your options are
Key Takeaways

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