PROGRAMS & ELIGIBILITY

TYPES OF PRIVATE SCHOOL CHOICE PROGRAMS

School choice means different things to different people. To AFC, school choice means allowing parents to select the best schools for their children—public or private. School choice includes school vouchers, scholarship tax credit programs, education savings account programs, public charter schools, virtual charter schools, and meaningful public school choice. Learn more about general program types and student eligibility–state-level program details will vary state to state.

“All families, regardless of income, should be able to choose the right school for their children.”

— SHARON CHAVEZ, AFC FELLOW

VOUCHER PROGRAMS

School voucher programs allow education dollars to “follow the child” to the private school of their parents’ choice.

Voucher programs allow education dollars to “follow the child,” enabling parents to select private schools and receive state-funded scholarships to pay tuition. These scholarships are usually targeted to students who come from low-income families, have special needs or currently attend a failing public school. Research has demonstrated that vouchers increase student achievement, boost graduation rates, and help public schools improve. They also lead to high parental satisfaction rates.

TOP 2 DISTINCT FEATURES:

  1. There are 23 voucher programs nationwide in 13 states plus Washington, D.C.

  2. The first voucher program, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, was enacted in 1990. The newest voucher, Maryland’s Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program was enacted in 2016.
STATE PROGRAM YEARS ENACTED STUDENTS ANNUAL FUNDING
Arkansas Succeed Scholarship Program 2015 167 $1,030,115
District of Columbia D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program 2004 1,653 $18,000,000
Florida John M. McKay Scholarship for Students With Disabilities Program 1999 31,044 $220,435,516
Georgia Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program 2007 4,442 $29,025,673
Indiana Choice Scholarship Program 2011 35,458 $153,967,952
Louisiana Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program 2008 6,909 $42,500,000
Louisiana School Choice Program For Certain Students With Exceptionalities 2010 391 $1,000,000
Maryland Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program 2016 2,646 $6,086,897
Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship 2012 212 $1,040,712
Mississippi Mississippi Speech-Language Therapy Scholarship For Students With Speech-Language Impairments Program 2013 0 $0
North Carolina Children With Disabilities Scholarship Grants 2013 1,251 $8,102,780
North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program 2013 7,371 $28,058,656
Ohio Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program 1995 7,688 $37,512,928
Ohio Autism Scholarship Program 2003 3,666 $81,247,167
Ohio Educational Choice Scholarship Program 2005 22,637 $102,688,259
Ohio Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program 2011 5,604 $48,184,899
Ohio Income-Based Scholarship Program 2013 9,512 $31,021,124
Oklahoma Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship For Students With Disabilities Program 2010 645 $3,740,187
Puerto Rico Free Selection of Schools 2018 0 $1
Utah Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship 2005 978 $5,042,836
Wisconsin Milwaukee Parental Choice Program 1990 28,702 $201,900,000
Wisconsin Racine Parental Choice Program 2011 3,007 $18,000,000
Wisconsin Wisconsin Parental Choice Program 2013 4,540 $22,300,000
Wisconsin Special Needs Scholarship Program 2015 246 $2,578,800
STATE PROGRAM ADMINISTRATIVE FINANCIAL ACADEMIC
Arkansas Succeed Scholarship Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Proof of Financial Viability Standardized Assessments
District of Columbia D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting
Proof of Financial Viability
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Independent Evaluation
Florida John M. McKay Scholarship for Students With Disabilities Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Proof of Financial Viability
Georgia Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Proof of Financial Viability
Indiana Choice Scholarship Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Independent Evaluation
Louisiana Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Independent Evaluation
Louisiana School Choice Program For Certain Students With Exceptionalities Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Maryland Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting
Mississippi Mississippi Speech-Language Therapy Scholarship For Students With Speech-Language Impairments Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting
North Carolina Children With Disabilities Scholarship Grants Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Independent Evaluation
Ohio Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Standardized Assessments
Ohio Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting
Ohio Educational Choice Scholarship Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Independent Evaluation
Ohio Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting Standardized Assessments
Ohio Income-Based Scholarship Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Oklahoma Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship For Students With Disabilities Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Proof of Financial Viability
Puerto Rico Free Selection of Schools
Utah Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting
Proof of Financial Viability
Standardized Assessments
Wisconsin Milwaukee Parental Choice Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting
Proof of Financial Viability
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Independent Evaluation
Wisconsin Racine Parental Choice Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting
Proof of Financial Viability
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Wisconsin Wisconsin Parental Choice Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting
Proof of Financial Viability
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Wisconsin Special Needs Scholarship Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Annual Financial Reporting
Proof of Financial Viability

EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT PROGRAMS

Education savings account programs give parents the power to use their children's state education dollars for a variety of educational purposes.

Education savings account programs create personal accounts that store a child’s state education dollars. With ESAs, parents can use education dollars to pay for school tuition and fees, textbooks, tutoring and special therapies and other approved expenses, so a child’s education is truly customizable. Participating families are able to choose the best education for their children through multiple providers.

TOP 2 DISTINCT FEATURES:

  1. There are 6 ESA programs nationwide.

  2. ESAs are the most personally customizable education option of existing types of school choice programs.
STATE PROGRAM YEARS ENACTED STUDENTS ANNUAL FUNDING
Arizona Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program 2011 4,660 $50,281,630
Florida The Gardiner Scholarship Program 2014 10,153 $105,300,000
Mississippi Equal Opportunity For Students With Special Needs 2015 356 $1,999,156
Nevada Nevada Educational Savings Account Program 2015 0 $0
North Carolina North Carolina Personal Education Savings Account Program 2017 0 $0
Tennessee Individualized Education Account Program 2015 88 $0
Tennessee Education Savings Account 2019 0 $0
STATE PROGRAM SGO ADMINISTRATIVE & FINANCIAL SCHOOL ADMINISTRATIVE & FINANCIAL ACADEMIC
Arizona Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program Nondiscrimination Annual Audits (Random Sample)
Florida The Gardiner Scholarship Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Standardized Assessments
Mississippi Equal Opportunity For Students With Special Needs Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Nevada Nevada Educational Savings Account Program Health & Safety Proof of Financial Viability
Annual Audits (Random Sample)
North Carolina North Carolina Personal Education Savings Account Program Health & Safety Annual Audits (Random Sample)
Tennessee Individualized Education Account Program Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks
Standardized Assessments
Tennessee Education Savings Account

SCHOLARSHIP TAX CREDIT PROGRAMS

Scholarship tax credit programs give families greater access to high-quality private schools by providing incentives to assist in expanding educational opportunity.

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 scholarships to eligible children. In return, the corporations and individuals receive a state income tax credit. There are 21 scholarship tax credit programs operating across the country, and research has demonstrated that these programs are positive for student achievement and save money for state and local governments.

TOP 2 DISTINCT FEATURES:

  1. There are 25 scholarship tax credit programs nationwide.

  2. The nation’s largest school choice program is a scholarship tax credit – Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program – which serves over 18,000 students.
STATE PROGRAM YEARS ENACTED STUDENTS ANNUAL FUNDING
Alabama Tax Credits For Contributions To Scholarship Granting Organizations 2013 4,181 $29,699,374
Arizona Individual School Tuition Organization Tax Credit 1997 52,554 $105,300,000
Arizona Low Income Corporate School Tuition Organization Tax Credit 2006 20,076 $51,597,804
Arizona Lexie’s Law 2009 936 $5,000,000
Florida Florida Tax Credit Scholarship 2001 108,098 $631,100,000
Georgia Georgia Scholarship Tax Credit 2008 13,243 $53,438,854
Illinois Invest in Kids Program 2017 0 $42,180,419
Illinois Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program 2017 0 $42,180,417
Indiana Corporate and Individual Scholarship Tax Credit Program 2009 499,744 $24,957,592
Iowa Individual and Corporate School Tuition Organization Tax Credit 2006 10,752 $18,461,866
Kansas Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship Program 2014 281 $4,159,881
Louisiana Louisiana Tuition Donation Rebate Program 2012 2,018 $7,005,905
Montana Tax Credits For Contribution To Student Scholarship Organizations 2015 39 $29,950
Nevada Nevada Educational Choice Scholarship Program 2015 2,083 $26,050,000
New Hampshire Education Tax Credit Program 2012 332 $713,091
Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships 2011 2,435 $4,611,511
Pennsylvania Educational Improvement Tax Credit 2001 34,433 $62,100,000
Pennsylvania Educational Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit 2012 14,556 $44,213,700
Rhode Island Rhode Island Corporate Scholarship Tax Credit 2006 433 $1,588,537
South Carolina Educational Credit For Exceptional Needs Children 2013 1,951 $10,000,000
South Carolina The Partners in Education Tax Credit Program 2016 480 $325,000
Virginia Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits 2012 3,258 $10,183,623
STATE PROGRAM YEARS ENACTED STUDENTS ANNUAL FUNDING
Alabama Tax Credits For Contributions To Scholarship Granting Organizations Background Checks (SGO)
Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks (School)
Proof of Financial Viability
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Arizona Individual School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Arizona Low Income Corporate School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Arizona Lexie’s Law Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Florida Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Background Checks (SGO)
Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks (School)
Proof of Financial Viability
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Georgia Georgia Scholarship Tax Credit Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Illinois Invest in Kids Program Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks (School)
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Independent Evaluation
Illinois Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program
Indiana Corporate and Individual Scholarship Tax Credit Program Background Checks (SGO)
Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Iowa Individual and Corporate School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Standardized Assessments
Kansas Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship Program Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Louisiana Louisiana Tuition Donation Rebate Program Background Checks (SGO)
Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks (School)
Proof of Financial Viability
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Montana Tax Credits For Contribution To Student Scholarship Organizations Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting Health & Safety Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
Nevada Nevada Educational Choice Scholarship Program Background Checks (SGO)
Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results
New Hampshire Education Tax Credit Program Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships Background Checks (SGO)
Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Pennsylvania Educational Improvement Tax Credit Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks (School)
Pennsylvania Educational Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Background Checks (SGO)
Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Rhode Island Rhode Island Corporate Scholarship Tax Credit Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Background Checks (School)
South Carolina Educational Credit For Exceptional Needs Children Annual Financial Reporting Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Standardized Assessments
South Carolina The Partners in Education Tax Credit Program Background Checks (SGO)
Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Standardized Assessments
Virginia Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Donation & Scholarship Details Reporting
Annual Financial Reporting
Health & Safety
Nondiscrimination
Standardized Assessments
Public Reporting of Results

INDIVIDUAL TUITION TAX CREDITS

Individual tuition tax credits give parents a state income tax credit for their child’s approved educational expenses.

Individual tuition tax credits can be used for a child’s educational expenses, including private school tuition, and help families choose educational tools they otherwise could not afford. “Of significant size,” or approximately $3,000 to $6,000 is key to ensuring that the credit is large enough to affect a family’s decision and ability to cover the costs of private school.

TOP 2 DISTINCT FEATURES:

  1. There are two individual tuition tax credits of significant size nationwide.

  2. Both individual tuition tax credits are refundable and are therefore an option for low income families that have little to no tax liability
STATE PROGRAM YEARS ENACTED STUDENTS ANNUAL FUNDING
Alabama Parent Refundable Tax Credits 2013 145 $351,140
Florida Hope Scholarship Program 2018 0 $0
South Carolina Refundable Tuition Credit For Exceptional Needs Children 2015 0 $0

PUBLIC CHARTER, MAGNET & OTHERS

Charter schools are public schools that are created by school districts, colleges, nonprofit organizations, or other entities.

These schools are allowed to determine many of their own policies and practices and they are not allowed to charge tuition. 45 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing for the creation of public charter schools. Magnet schools, permitted in each of the 50 states, are public schools operated by school districts (or groups of school districts) that allow kids to focus on a specific learning track, such as STEM, medical science, or performing arts. These schools are free to attend and there are more than 4,000 magnet schools across the country. In some states, there are no freestanding magnet schools, but there are magnet programs available in traditional public schools.

OTHER PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE OPTIONS:

  1. Homeschooling

  2. Virtual Academies/Online Learning

STUDENT ELIGIBILITY—REQUIREMENTS FOR PARTICIPATION:

SPECIAL NEEDS QUALIFICATIONS

Special needs scholarship programs are private school choice programs designed specifically for students with special needs. These programs allow students to attend a public or private school that can address their specific learning needs.

Twenty of the nation’s fifty private school choice programs are specifically designed to serve students with special needs.

MEANS-TESTED QUALIFICATIONS

Means-tested programs are designed to empower students from low-income families to attend the school of their parents’ choice. These programs provide access to quality educational options that low-income families would not otherwise have.

Means-preferenced programs give preference to students from low-income families by serving them first, while also allowing students from working class and middle income families to participate.

Twenty-seven of the nation’s fifty private school choice programs are either means-tested or means-preferenced.

UNIVERSAL QUALIFICATIONS

Universal eligibility programs allow every child, with no restrictions such as income or prior public school attendance, the opportunity to receive a scholarship to attend the school of his or her parent’s choice. Two of the nation’s fifty private school choice programs have universal eligibility. One additional program is near universal – students from families of all income levels are eligible, unless they already attend private school.

FAILING SCHOOLS QUALIFICATIONS

Failing schools programs help students stuck in or assigned to persistently low-and-under-performing public schools. These programs allow students to attend the private or public school of their parents’ choice, providing immediate educational options to students. Eight of the nation’s fifty private school choice programs are failing schools programs.

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