What Is Educational Choice, and How Does It Work? 

Simply put, private educational choice programs allow parents to pursue the educational options that work best for their children, regardless of means or where they live. They empower parents to choose by providing funds that can only be used for their child’s education. The money goes directly to the families, and they spend it as they see fit; the money follows the child. Wealthy families already exercise choice by moving into good school districts or paying tuition to private schools.

There are currently 66 private educational choice programs operating in 28 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. But not all programs are the same.

The Facts About Educational Choice

We can’t sugarcoat it: This work will be hard – the fight for educational choice can be very intense. But there’s good news: Parents can fight this battle – and win!

In Florida, for instance, the fight seemed daunting, especially after the state Supreme Court ruled against its voucher program in 2006. But parents organized and fought for choices, and Florida now has multiple tax-credit scholarship programs, two voucher programs, and a newly passed education savings account. Similarly, when an Ohio mother was told her son would never be able to hold a job or have a normal life, she decided that wasn’t good enough – and her efforts led to the Jon Peterson Scholarship, a program in Ohio that allows children with special needs to attend a school that works for them. Other choice programs in the state have expanded over the years as well.

These fights are tough, but the reward is great. Most educational choice programs enjoy majority support, especially when people learn the facts about how they work.

The Constitutionality of Educational Choice

As soon as you begin organizing to expand educational choice, you can expect to hear from opponents, “but it’s not constitutional!” Opponents will point to provisions in their state constitutions or the U.S. Constitution that they say mean educational choice can never become a reality in your state. Legal and constitutional questions can be overwhelming, but you can stand firm in your fight because you have the law on your side.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2002 decision, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, declared that educational choice is constitutional under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue declared that states cannot discriminate against schools that participate in these programs based on whether they are religious in nature, which many private schools are.

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