By Jonathan Butcher
Goldwater Institute

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As states around the country get set to start their legislative sessions in January, making sure children are attending schools that challenge them and prepare them for life tops the list of priorities.

Texas is one of the states considering a new scholarship for children in K-12, and even U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has suggested a tax credit scholarship program at the federal level.

Despite the new options in K-12 education that families have in states like Arizona, Indiana, and North Carolina, only some 200,000 children in the U.S. are attending their first-choice school using a scholarship or education savings account. This pales in comparison to the 50 million children assigned to public schools across the U.S.

As lawmakers consider ways to give children the chance at a bright future, they should take a closer look at what made 2011 and 2012 so significant for students in states that passed laws giving parents the freedom to choose the education that is best for their child.

What sets Arizona’s education savings accounts apart from every other program in the country is the innovative combination of choice and flexibility. Parents can choose a school, but this is only the beginning. Parents can choose online classes, tutors, educational therapies, and save money in college savings accounts and beyond.

A few other states are catching on. New Hampshire’s scholarship tax credit allows parents to use scholarship funds for private school tuition or to homeschool their children. The Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program in Ohio also allows for multiple uses of scholarship money. In Michigan, a bill has already been drafted that would give children choices between school districts and online classes.

As other states consider new school choice programs, they should look beyond vouchers and tuition scholarship tax credits, or “school choice 1.0,” and embrace what other states, led by Arizona, are doing with “2.0.”

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