Types of Educational Choice Programs

The following programs allow parents to use all or part of the government funding set aside for their children's education to send their children to the private school of their choice. Most programs allow parents to send their children to either religious or nonreligious private schools. Participating private schools are required to meet standards for safety, fiscal soundness, and nondiscrimination; some programs also impose additional restrictions.  

Universal Voucher Programs

All children are eligible.  

Means-Tested Voucher

Programs for children from families below a defined income level are eligible. Failing Schools, Failing Students Voucher Programs: Children who are attending failing public schools or who are performing poorly in public schools are eligible.  

Special Needs Voucher Programs

Children identified as having special educational needs are eligible.  

Tax-Credit Scholarship Programs

Individuals and corporations get a tax credit for making donations to private, charitable funding organizations that use the money to fund scholarships for students. These scholarships can cover the cost of private-school tuition, tutoring, and transportation. In some states, students must meet certain income criteria to be eligible for scholarships. Scholarship-granting organizations can be started by community groups, philanthropic organizations, or any other group that wants to extend school choice to children. Participating private schools are required to meet standards for safety, fiscal soundness, and nondiscrimination.  

Personal Tax Credits and Deductions

Parents receive a tax credit or a tax deduction from state income taxes for approved educational expenses. This credit or deduction usually includes private-school tuition as well as books, supplies, computers, tutors, and transportation. Even when tuition is not eligible for the credit or the deduction, these programs still make school choice easier for parents because the programs relieve the burden of non-tuition expenses at private schools. Some programs include restrictions regarding the income level of eligible recipients or the amount they can claim.    

Education Savings Accounts

Education savings accounts allow parents to withdraw their children from public district or charter schools and receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts with restricted, but multiple, uses. Those funds can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, community college costs, and other higher education expenses.