Types of School Choice
School choice means different things to different people. To us, school choice means allowing parents to select the best schools for their children—public or private.
The American Federation for Children focuses its time and resources on supporting state-level efforts to provide low-income and middle class families with access to great schools through school choice. School choice includes school vouchers, scholarship tax credit programs, education savings account programs, public charter schools, virtual charter schools, and meaningful public school choice.
School vouchers allow parents to receive scholarships to send their children to eligible private schools. These state scholarships are usually targeted to students who come from low-income families, have exceptional learning needs, or who currently attend failing public schools. Vouchers are funded through state tax dollars, allowing parents to "vote with their feet" and select the best schools for their children, public or private. There are 16 school voucher programs enacted across the country, and research has demonstrated that vouchers increase student achievement, boost graduation rates, and help public schools improve. They also lead to high parental satisfaction rates.
Scholarship Tax Credits
Scholarship tax credit programs create new pools of funding so that children can receive scholarships to attend the private schools of their parents’ choice. Corporations and individuals make private donations to nonprofit organizations that provide these scholarships to eligible children (preference is most often given to children from low-income families). In return, the corporations and individuals receive a state income tax credit. There are 14 scholarship tax credit programs operating across the country, and research has demonstrated that these programs improve student achievement and save money for state and local governments.
Education Savings Accounts
Education savings account programs create personal accounts that store a child’s state education dollars. These funds can be used in a variety of educational options, including tuition and fees, textbooks, and tutoring. In education savings account programs, families determine how education funding is spent for their children’s education. There is one education savings account program in Arizona.
Public Charter Schools
Charter schools are public schools that receive government funding but are free to offer innovative curriculum, special incentives for teachers, and targeted education to children. Charter schools are often created by local nonprofits, colleges and universities, state or local charter school boards, and local school boards. Ideally, charter schools have autonomy—meaning that they are free to create diverse and high-achieving educational environments without many of the bureaucratic requirements faced by traditional public schools. Most states have some form of law allowing for the creation of charter schools.