Many legislatures around the country are expanding parents' school options to include private schools in addition to public schools. In total, 26 states, the District of Columbia and Douglas Country School District have enacted policies designed to broaden access to a private education. There are four primary policies states have adopted that expand private school choices:
- School Vouchers
- Scholarship Tax Credits
- Personal Tax Credits and Deductions
- Education Savings Grants
Many states are examining whether to adopt and implement school choice strategies. This guide is intended as a resource for understanding the types of school choice options states are considering and enacting, including the effects of using multiple forms of choice. School choice policies may not be appropriate for every state, and that decision is entirely up to individual state legislatures.
School vouchers are state-funded scholarships that pay for students to attend private school rather than public school. Most states have at least considered legislation on school vouchers in recent years. NCSL has comprehensive resources on how states have approached this issue.
Scholarship tax credits allow individuals and corporations to allocate a portion of their owed state taxes to private nonprofit scholarship organizations that issue public and private school scholarships to K-12 students. NCSL tracks legislative trends and research on this issue closely.
Personal Tax Credits and Deductions
States can offer tax breaks to parents as a form of reimbursement for private school tuition and related expenses. These tax policies are designed to make private school more affordable for low and middle-income families. Such benefits, however, may be less attractive to low-income families who pay less taxes.
Education Savings Grants
Education Savings Grants are state-funded grants deposited into special savings accounts from which parents can withdraw funds for certain educational expenses. It works similar to flexible spending plans that are available for health and child care expenses. Qualifying expenses can include private school tuition, private tutoring, private online courses, textbooks and college savings plans. In Arizona, one of two states with this type of program, parents must agree not to enroll their child in a public school of any kind as a condition of receiving the grant. Unused funds may be carried over each year allowing parents to save for future educational costs including certain college expenses (although grants are only issued through a student's high school graduation).