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School Choice FAQ


Learn about different types of School Choice features and options. 

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(Definitions by The American Federation for Children.)


School voucher programs allow education dollars to “follow the child” to the private school of their parents’ choice.

Voucher programs allow education dollars to "follow the child," enabling parents to select private schools and receive state-funded scholarships to pay tuition. These scholarships are usually targeted to students who come from low-income families, have special needs or currently attend a failing public school. Research has demonstrated that vouchers increase student achievement, boost graduation rates, and help public schools improve. They also lead to high parental satisfaction rates.



Education savings account programs give parents the power to use their children's state education dollars for a variety of educational purposes.

Education savings account programs create personal accounts that store a child’s state education dollars. With ESAs, parents can use education dollars to pay for school tuition and fees, textbooks, tutoring and special therapies and other approved expenses, so a child's education is truly customizable. Participating families are able to choose the best education for their children through multiple providers.



Scholarship tax credit programs give families greater access to high-quality private schools by providing incentives for businesses and individuals to get involved in education reform.

Scholarship tax credit programs create new pools of funding so that children can receive scholarships to attend the private schools of their parents’ choice. Corporations and individuals make private donations to nonprofit organizations that provide scholarships to eligible children.  In return, the corporations and individuals receive a state income tax credit. There are 21 scholarship tax credit programs operating across the country, and research has demonstrated that these programs are positive for student achievement and save money for state and local governments


Individual tuition tax credits give parents a state income tax credit for their child’s approved educational expenses.

Individual tuition tax credits of significant size can be used for a child’s educational expenses, including private school tuition, and help families choose educational tools they otherwise could not afford. “Of significant size,” or approximately $3,000 to $6,000 is key to ensuring that the credit is large enough of affect a family’s decision and ability to cover the costs of private school.


Universal eligibility programs allow every child, with no restrictions such as income or prior public school attendance, the opportunity to receive a scholarship to attend the school of his or her parent’s choice. Two of the nation’s fifty private school choice programs have universal eligibility. One additional program is near universal – students from families of all income levels are eligible unless they already attend private school.


Means-tested programs are designed to empower students from low-income families to attend the school of their parents’ choice. These programs provide access to quality educational options that low-income families would not otherwise have.

Means-preferenced programs give preference to students from low-income families by serving them first, while also allowing students from working class and middle income families to participate.

Twenty-seven of the nation’s fifty private school choice programs are either means-tested or means-preferenced.


Special needs scholarship programs are private school choice programs designed specifically for students with special needs. These programs allow students to attend a public or private school that can address their specific learning needs.

Twenty of the nation’s fifty private school choice programs are specifically designed to serve students with special needs.


Failing schools programs help students stuck in or assigned to persistently failing public schools. These programs allow students to attend the private or public school of their parents’ choice, providing immediate educational options to students. Eight of the nation’s fifty private school choice programs are failing schools programs.

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