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What Is a School Voucher?

By Cece Gilmore

Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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Reviewed by Cari Shultz

Cari Schultz is an Educational Review Board Advisor at Scholarships360, where she reviews content featured on the site. For over 20 years, Cari has worked in college admissions (Baldwin Wallace University, The Ohio State University, University of Kentucky) and as a college counselor (Columbus School for Girls).

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Updated: September 19th, 2022
What Is a School Voucher?

Seeking alternative ways to pay for a school that is not your local public?  A school voucher might be just what you are looking for. School vouchers help families afford private schooling that they would otherwise be unable to afford. Read more about what a school voucher is in our guide below! 

What exactly is a school voucher? 

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 help low-income families send their children to nearby private schools without worrying about the tuition costs. 

Also see: Public vs private K-12: What to consider

Do school vouchers work in every state? 

Not all states utilize school vouchers, and among those that do, there are different requirements. Therefore, make sure to thoroughly research your state’s school voucher program well before hoping to enroll in a school. 

According to the Education Commission of the States, “There are currently 27 voucher programs in 16 states and the District of Columbia.” 

The following states utilize school vouchers: 

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

This list continues to grow, so if you don’t see your state listed, check back for next year. 

Controversy surrounding school vouchers

A simple internet search of “pros and cons of school vouchers” gives an idea of just how controversial the topic of school vouchers is. We narrowed down the main reasons that the topic of school vouchers brings about heated debate from supporters and opponents.

Support of school voucher views

Those who support school vouchers believe they provide opportunities for academic growth for low-income students. Supporters believe that if low-income families have more choices in schooling, students will be able to thrive once they no longer attend failing schools. 

Opposition of school voucher views

Some people and groups believe that the tax money and funding put into school vouchers should be put into improving public schools. Those who are against school vouchers want their tax dollars to go towards public education opportunities for all, not private education for fewer students. 

Also see: Charter schools vs. public schools

Do school vouchers improve the academic performance of students? 

A few questions individuals may have surrounding school vouchers and student performance includes: 

  • Do school vouchers increase test scores? 
  • Will school vouchers damage public schools? 
  • Have school vouchers helped students overtime? 

Unfortunately, there is conflicting information out there regarding the academic performance of students who utilize school vouchers. Proponents of vouchers, such as the American Federation for Children, share research that extols the benefits of vouchers. In contrast, the National Education Association (the largest teachers’ union in the United States) claims that vouchers have a negative impact on students. It is best to carefully research potential schools whether using vouchers or not. 

Who is eligible for a school voucher? 

Families who live in states that offer school vouchers and do not exceed a specific household income are eligible to receive funds from the program.  In addition, students are required to attend public schools prior to receiving a school voucher.

If you are curious about the requirements and eligibility in your state, click on the state you are curious about for more information.

Also see: Finding scholarships for private K-12 schools

Resources with information about school vouchers

The Education Commission of the States has a list of all the states that offer school voucher programs. EdChoice offers a great video overview of school vouchers as well as a lot of information about eligibility and the benefits of these programs. 

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • School vouchers allow low-income students to attend a private institution with part or all of the tuition covered by public funds
  • School voucher choice options vary significantly based on the state in which you live so do your research
  • There are currently 27 school voucher programs in 16 states
Key Takeaways

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