Every 26 seconds, another American child drops out of a public school in America. In many of our nation’s largest cities, dropout rates exceed 50 percent. And America is lagging behind more than a dozen other nations in math and literacy. The United States faces an education crisis, and despite the best efforts of parents and teachers, far too many low- and middle-income children are seeing their dreams denied.
School choice advocates believe that children should have the opportunity to go to better schools—right away—through access to private schools via opportunity scholarships (most commonly called school vouchers), special needs scholarship programs, and scholarship tax credit programs. While the Alliance for School Choice focuses on those three reforms in particular, advocates also believe that states should eliminate barriers preventing the growth of high-quality charter schools, virtual schools, online learning options, and home schooling.
Today, there are 38 private school choice programs serving almost 250,000 children across the nation. Voucher and scholarship tax credit programs were active in 18 states and the District of Columbia and Douglas County, CO. See below to learn more about the types of programs we support.
Opportunity Scholarships & School Vouchers
Opportunity scholarship programs (most commonly called school vouchers) allow disadvantaged children to receive state-funded scholarships to attend the schools of their parents’ choice. These programs provide crucial options to children who too often are forced to attend failing schools.
There are several types of voucher programs currently operating:
- Means-tested (or means-preferenced) voucher programs are targeted to low-income families who meet specific income criteria. Six programs of this kind are currently operating.
- Failing schools voucher programs are targeted to children who attend low-performing public schools. Two programs of this kind are currently operating.
Special needs scholarship programs are targeted to children with special educational needs. Typically, they require the student to have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to qualify. Eight programs of this kind are currently operating.
Scholarship Tax Credit Programs
Scholarship tax credit programs provide state tax credits to businesses and individuals that donate money to scholarship funds that help children attend the private schools of their parents’ choice. Rather than being operated by the government, these scholarship programs are run by nonprofit, tax-exempt, scholarship-granting organizations. The scholarships do not originate from state appropriations but from private charitable donations made under the provisions of the tax code. Accordingly, they are not funded by public agencies. Scholarship-granting organizations use their own criteria for distributing scholarship monies to eligible students. States monitor these organizations to ensure financial accountability.
- Fourteen scholarship tax credit programs are currently operating, with Arizona offering three separate programs.
- Frequently, laws require that eligible families meet certain income criteria. These programs are known as means-tested or means preferenced scholarship tax credit programs. There are 11 programs of this kind currently operating.
- One newer form of scholarship tax credit programs is designed for children with special needs or children in foster care. There is one program of this kind currently operating.
Of the 32 private school choice programs in operation, 16 are school voucher programs and 14 are scholarship tax credit programs. Eleven programs are specifically designed to assist children with special needs.
Learn about the benefits of school choice to state budgets. Download our briefing paper.
Learn about student academic achievement and attainment. Download our briefing paper.
Read what the research says about school choice. Download the presentation.
Download our signature annual publication, the School Choice Yearbook 2011-2012.