Types of School Choice Programs

EDUCATION VOUCHERS- are a method of public education funding in which a designated amount of money follows the child to a school of the parent’s choice.

School vouchers represent state funding for a child’s education that allow the funding to follow the child to the educational environment best-suited for that child.

Types of vouchers:

MEANS-TESTED VOUCHER PROGRAM/ EQUAL OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP - enables poor families who meet specific income criteria, typically around 185 percent of the federal poverty limit, to direct funds set aside for education by the government to pay for all or part of tuition at the public, private, or religious school of their choice.

UNIVERSAL VOUCHER PROGRAMS allow all parents, regardless of income, residential location, or any other criteria to direct all or part of the funds set aside for education by the government to send their children to a school of choice, whether that school is public, private or religious.

FAILING SCHOOLS, Failing Students Voucher Programs allow parents whose children are doing poorly in school or whose children attend failing public schools to direct the funds set aside for education by the government to send their child to a better performing public, private or religious school.

SPECIAL EDUCATION VOUCHER PROGRAMS provide options for parents of children identified as having special education needs to direct public funds set aside by the government to send their children to a school of choice, whether that school is public, private, or religious.

In the 2005-2006 school year, 17,951 students in the city of Milwaukee received and utilized a scholarship from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

SCHOLARSHIP TAX CREDITS PROGRAMS - offer individuals and/or corporations the opportunity to receive a tax credit for contributing to scholarship programs for children who need them most. With scholarship tax credit programs, tax-deductible contributions are collected from individuals and/or corporations through scholarship granting organizations. Taxpayers receive a tax credit for the amount of the contribution made to eligible organizations. These organizations provide scholarships to children to cover the cost of private school tuition, tutoring, and, in some cases, transportation. Typically, laws require that eligible families meet certain income criteria. Families must also meet guidelines established by individual grant giving organizations.

Current Scholarship Tax Credit Programs around the country:

  • Arizona : individual and corporate scholarship tax credit programs
  • Florida: corporate scholarship tax credit program
  • Iowa: individual scholarship tax credit program
  • Pennsylvania: corporate scholarship tax credit program
  • Rhode Island: corporate scholarship tax credit program

*Tax Credit Scholarships do not originate from any state appropriations but from private charitable donations, made under the provisions of the tax code. That means they do not have to be funded by public money. Once legislation is passed, existing charitable organizations and newly formed charitable organizations register as scholarship granting organizations. These organizations are monitored by the state to ensure financial accountability.

In the 2005-2006 school year, over 66,000 K-12 Students in Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania received tax credit scholarships.

*Source: School Choice Yearbook 2006, Alliance for School Choice

CHARTER SCHOOLS- are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The "charter" establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3-5 years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school's contract. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor—usually a state or local school board, or a university or other institution of higher learning—to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them, and the public that funds them.

Benefits of Charter Schools:

  • Increase opportunities for a quality education
  • Create choice for parents within the public school system
  • Encourage innovative teaching practices
  • Create new professional opportunities for teachers
  • Increase accountability in the public system beyond government regulated practices.
*Source: US Charter Schools website, uscharterschools.org

HOMESCHOOLING - is not a new concept. Until 1850, most children in the United States were educated in their home. In the past 25 years, this method of school choice has been revived. Today, somewhere between two and three million children are homeschooled. Although every homeschool is a unique, there are various methods that have become increasingly popular. To receive more information on homeschooling visit www.homeschool.com, www.home-school.com, or www.homeedmag.com.


Mayor Cory Booker - In 2006, discussing proposed NJ school choice legislation

“Improving education for minorities is an “urgent civil rights challenge” and [this] bill would “empower children trapped in failing public schools” by relieving overcrowding, thus giving “teachers the opportunity to focus on fewer students for better results.”

Source: Coulter, Michael. “School Reform News.” The Heartland Institute. January 2007

Sen. Diane Feinstein - on the D.C. Voucher Pilot Program

“Based on the substantial amount of money pumped into the schools and the resultant test scores, I do not believe that money alone is going to solve the problem. This is why I believe the District should be allowed to try this pilot -- particularly for the sake of its low-income students. Ultimately this issue is not about ideology or political correctness. It is about providing a new opportunity for good education, which is the key to success. Unless a youngster has learned the fundamentals of education, he or she will find it extremely difficult when older to find work in the competitive marketplace.”

Source: “Let D.C. Try Vouchers,” Washington Post; July 22, 2003, A 17

Milton Friedman - Father of the School Choice Movement

“The United States from all accounts ranks #1 in higher education. People from all over the world regard the United States’ colleges and universities the best and most varied.  On the other hand, in every other international comparison we rank near the bottom in elementary and secondary education, why the difference?...one word..choice.  In elementary and secondary education, the school picks the child; it picks its customer.  In higher education, the customer picks its school. You have choice that makes all the difference in the world.  It means competition forces product.”

Source: “Milton Friedman on Vouchers,” CNBC Interview, March 24, 2003

“Empowering parents would generate a competitive education market, which would lead to a burst of innovation and improvement, as competition has done in so many other areas. There’s nothing that would do so much to avoid the danger of a two-tiered society, of a class-based society. And there’s nothing that would do so much to ensure a skilled and educated work force.”

Source: “The Father of Modern School Reform,” December 2005, an interview conducted by Nick Gillespie

Rudy Giuliani - is a strong supporter of school choice. He believes that it is one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time.

“Every parent should have the ability to send their child to the school of their choice, be it public, private, or parochial.”

Source: Rudy Giuliani Presidential Campaign Website, www.JoinRudy2008.com May 9, 2007

Sen. Joe Lieberman

“I have long fought for public school choice, including open public school enrollment, and public charter and magnet schools… I support experiments in private school choice programs that are targeted to low-income students, do not take money away from public schools, and include strong evaluations of the success of such programs in raising student achievement.”

Source: Vote-Smart Presidential National Political Awareness Test Jan 8, 2004

Sen. John McCain

“Our children deserve the best education we can provide to them, whether that learning takes place in a public, private or parochial school. It’s time to give middle and lower income parents the same right wealthier families have -- to send their child to the school that best meets their needs. It’s time to conduct a nationwide test of school vouchers. It’s time to democratize education.”

Source: Candidacy Declaration Speech, Nashua NH Sep 27, 1999

Governor Mitt Romney

"At some point, I think America -- and, importantly, the minority communities -- are going to say, 'it's time to split with our friends, the unions and the Democratic Party, and put our kids first here.' Unequal educational opportunity is the civil rights issue of our time."

Source: Tulsa World, March 7, 2006

In the 2005-2006 school year, 17,951 students in the city of Milwaukee received and utilized a scholarship from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.


Mayor Cory Booker

Sen. Diane Feinstein

Milton Friedman

Rudy Giuliani

Sen. Joe Lieberman

Sen. John McCain

Governor Mitt Romney