Setting the Record Straight with the School Choice Guidebook

We’re about to head into a new year of legislative sessions across the country. Elections are just around the corner. School choice is in the spotlight, yet many in the media and in the public are completely unaware of the facts about educational choice programs. Those opposed to giving kids educational options deliberately misinform the media and the public about the issue.

So we’re setting the record straight.

Since 2005, the American Federation for Children has released a comprehensive guide to the nation’s private school choice programs titled The School Choice Yearbook. Starting in 2016, we also published a document which ranked private school choice programs titled The Report Card.

We are now combining those two reports into one document: The School Choice Guidebook.

The AFC Growth Fund’s School Choice Guidebook should be tremendously helpful as state legislators and governors look to create policies that help families and improve education in the upcoming legislative season, kicking off for most in January. It’s also a tool for the media, which has a duty to report fair and accurate information, particularly on issues such as education and parental choice, which impacts taxpayers and has the potential to change children’s’ lives.

Let’s take an example: the media often interchanges the terms tax credit scholarship and voucher. In fact, opponents to educational choice programs will often call any option – eg, tax credit scholarship, voucher, education savings accounts, charter schools – the same thing: a voucher. To those of us in the school choice movement, calling all options a “voucher” is like calling all fruit “apples” when you’re in fact describing a banana. In reality, these are very different mechanisms for affording families the opportunity to choose the best education setting for their child.

Most simplistically, a voucher program allows a portion of the funding already assigned to a child through their right to attend a public school to follow that child to a school of choice. A tax credit scholarship program does not use that source of funding. Instead, like the innumerable tax credit programs across the country that fund everything from zoos to recycling, it encourages donors to support a public good by directing their tax liability to a state-approved cause. In the case of a tax credit scholarship program, that cause is a child’s education.

The Guidebook helps explain these and other details of the 24 voucher programs and 22 tax credit scholarship programs in the nation, including but not limited to: up-to-date information on how many children are being served by school choice in America, program funding data, citations to research on outcomes, and program growth over time. And, for those who’ve been misled about choice programs, pages 16 and 17 of the Guidebook address 10 common myths about school choice today.

We hope this will be a helpful resource to all readers, and particularly those who have taken on the responsibility to accurately report about this issue in the face of the often false and misleading soundbites of the powerful anti-school choice lobby.