Education choice allows families to choose the best educational fit for their children. It encompasses public, private and non-traditional schooling options like open enrollment public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, home schooling, online learning, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships and education scholarship accounts (ESAs).
Every child deserves access to a quality education that provides the knowledge, skills and values necessary to prepare them for a successful career and fulfilling life. Unfortunately, many children are residentially assigned to schools that don’t fit their unique needs and learning styles.
The philosophy of education choice is the belief that every child deserves access to quality education opportunities. Policymakers can support equitable access to those opportunities by championing the ability to choose one or more schools in one or more settings served by one or more providers.
Open enrollment policies and charter schools options allow families to choose from quality public school options.
“Now, more than ever, advocates need to listen to parents to understand what they want and need, and parents say they want flexibility. Choice programs born in a post-Espinoza world should be flexible. They should consider families that desire public, private, homeschool and hybrid options and allow families to choose from a range of services and qualified providers capable of meeting specific individual needs.”
“Florida school choice has allowed my three kids to excel in different educational settings based on their individual learning styles and needs. Freedom to choose the school of your choice—be it home school, charter school, private school or public school, on-line or ‘brick and mortar’—has allowed Florida to soar to the top in education! Funds should go toward our students’ success, wherever and however they learn!”
Open enrollment allows students to attend public schools outside of their residentially assigned attendance zone. Forty-six states, plus Washington, D.C., have open enrollment policies.
Charter schools are tuition-free public schools open to all students and held to state academic and financial standards. However, unlike traditional public schools, charter schools are run independently of school districts and operate under a performance contract with an authorizer (a district, the state or another approved government or nonprofit entity). In exchange for more operational autonomy, charter schools are held accountable for student success.
Tax-credit scholarships are among the fastest growing education choice programs. These programs incentivize individuals and businesses to donate to nonprofit organizations that provide private school scholarships to eligible students. In exchange for their donations, donors receive a tax credit from the state—ideally a 100%, dollar-for-dollar credit.
ESA programs empower families with the freedom to pursue the education options best suited to their individual needs and aspirations. ESAs are state-supervised spending accounts containing a child’s education funds that can be used to pay for a variety of educational services. With an ESA, parents direct their children’s education funding to the state-approved schools, courses, programs and services of their choice—plus unused funds can be saved for future K-12 and college expenses.
Vouchers were the first form of private education choice, originally enacted in 1990 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The concept is simple, and something that had been practiced in higher education for generations: instead of sending funding directly to schools, fund a child and let them take the funds to any eligible school of their choice.