21 (soon 22) School Choice States

21 (soon 22) School Choice States 

By. Matt Frendewey

Recently, I received an email from a friend with a pretty simple question: How many states have “school choice” programs, 21 or 26?

To answer this question, I’ve turned to one of the nation’s foremost experts on school choice legislation, Scott Jensen, AFC’s senior advisor and former Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly.


I hear this question from time-to-time while traveling the country and would be happy to clear it up.

At the American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, we only count programs that 1) give parents enough assistance to actually make a different choice; and 2) provide parents with a variety of private school options including religious schools.

These states are:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In addition, you have the District of Columbia and Douglas County, Colorado. Therefore it is most accurately answered, 21 states, plus D.C. and Douglas County, Colorado. Although, it’s worth noting that we’re on the verge of reaching 22, assuming Gov. Haslam signs into law the recently passed special needs ESA bill in Tennessee.

How do some allies come up with 26? While I won’t attempt to speak for anyone, I can only assume they count Illinois, Minnesota, Vermont, and Maine, and then possibly DC or Douglas County as states with programs.

However, Illinois’s $500 tax credit is too small to effect a parent’s decisions. And, Minnesota’s $1,000 tax credit does not cover tuition  just other educational expenses. The Vermont and Maine programs do not allow students to attend a religious school, and therefore, do not truly empower parents with full educational options.

Thanks for the question and onward to 22!


Scott Jensen

If you have other school choice questions for AFC’s policy team, send them to Matt Frendewey, mfrendewey@federationforchildren.org