Author(s): Robert C. Enlow
Over fifty years ago, Milton and Rose Friedman proposed the idea that has become known as school choice. The Friedman Foundation was founded in 1996 with the goal of championing that idea. Since then, numerous school choice programs have been enacted, each representing a different realization of the Friedmans' vision, and each deviating in some ways from the gold standard they laid down for school choice. Grading School Choice evaluates all 21 existing school choice programs against the Friedman gold standard of choice for all, not just for some.
Enacted 2003 • Launched 2004
Ohio students on the autism spectrum may receive vouchers for education services from a
private provider, including tuition at a private school. After participating students receive
education services, they apply to the state for reimbursement of expenses.
Enacted 2005 • Launched 2005
Most Utah students who have disabilities are eligible to receive vouchers to attend private
school. However, participation is limited by the amount of money appropriated to the $3.75
million program fund.
Enacted 1995 • Launched 1996
Parents in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District can receive vouchers to send their
children to private school or public schools bordering the school district. No more than half of
new recipients may be students previously enrolled in private schools.
Enacted 2006 • Launched 2006
Arizona provides a credit on corporate income taxes for donations to School Tuition
Organizations (STOs), nonprofits that provide private school scholarships. Corporate taxpayers
contributing to STOs may claim a tax credit equal to the full amount of their contribution. The
program is limited to a total of $10 million in available tax credits per year, a figure that is
allowed to rise 20 percent annually.
Enacted 1987 • Launched 1987
Iowa provides parents of students in any private or public school a tax credit covering
educational expenses, including tuition, books, and lab or activity fees. The credit is worth a
maximum of $250.
Enacted 2005 • Launched 2006
Ohio students attending chronically low-performing public schools are eligible for “EdChoice”
vouchers to attend private schools. The cap on available vouchers is 60,000.
Enacted 2001 • Launched 2001
Pennsylvania provides tax credits for corporate contributions to Scholarship Organizations,
nonprofits that provide private school scholarships, or Educational Improvement
Organizations, nonprofits that support innovative programs in public schools. Tax credits
are worth 75 percent of the contribution; however, a 90 percent credit can be claimed if the
corporation commits to two consecutive annual contributions. In either case, the maximum
tax credit is $400,000 per company, while in 2013 and beyond, the maximum is $750,000 per
company. Credits are awarded to companies on a first-come, first-served basis until the cap is
reached. The total amount of tax credits is limited to $60 million.
Enacted 2001 • Launched 2001
Florida provides a tax credit on corporate income taxes and insurance premium taxes for
donations to Scholarship Funding Organizations (SFOs), nonprofits that provide private
school scholarships for low-income students and foster care children and offer funds for
transportation to public schools outside a child’s district. Businesses get a dollar-for-dollar tax
credit for SFO contributions, with total credits capped at $229 million. Unused credits can be
carried forward to the next fiscal year.
Enacted 2007 • Launched 2007
The Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program allows any student with a disability whose
parents are unhappy with their assigned public school to receive a voucher to attend private
Enacted as a Pilot Program 1999 • Expanded 2000
Florida’s John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program allows public
school students with disabilities or 504 plans to receive vouchers to attend private schools or
another public school.
Enacted 1955 • Launched 1955
Minnesota provides a tax deduction covering educational expenses for students in any private or public school, including homeschooling. The tax deduction lowers a family’s taxable income and covers books, tutors, academic after-school programs, and other non-tuition educational expenses. The deduction also includes tuition payments at private schools.
Milwaukee families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines qualify to
receive vouchers. Once a student receives a voucher, that student is able to keep it, regardless
of his or her family’s future income. Voucher students are allowed to attend any participating
private school in the state.
Enacted 2004 • Launched 2004
The District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship Program provides vouchers to lowincome
students. Overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, the program is funded
separately from D.C. public schools. It is authorized through 2016, with $20 million in total
Enacted 1997 • Launched 1997
Arizona provides a credit on individual income taxes for donations to School Tuition
Organizations (STOs), nonprofits that provide private school scholarships. Individual
taxpayers contributing to STOs may claim a dollar-for-dollar credit of up to $1,000, and married
couples filing jointly may claim up to $2,000 (half of which must go to scholarships for children
leaving public schools, rather than those already in private schools). Individuals may claim
up to $200 ($400 for married couples) for contributing to a public school for extracurricular
activities or character education programs.
Enacted 2006 • Launched 2006
Iowa provides a credit on individual income taxes for donations to School Tuition Organizations
(STOs), nonprofits that provide private school scholarships. The credit is worth 65 percent of
the donation’s value, which also is limited by a statewide cap. A maximum of $8.75 million in
tax credits is currently available; however, this will increase to $12 million in 2014. Each STO is able to grant tax credits to its donors up to its share of the
statewide limit, with each STO’s share determined by the enrollment at the schools it serves.
Corporate donations are able to constitute up to 25 percent of the $8.75 million cap ($12 million beginning in 2014).
Enacted 2006 • Launched 2007
Rhode Island provides a credit on corporate income taxes for donations to Scholarship
Organizations, nonprofits that provide private school scholarships. Tax credits are worth 75
percent of a taxpayer’s contribution, or 90 percent if donated for two consecutive years and
the second year’s donation is worth at least 80 percent of the first year’s donation. The total
amount of tax credits is capped at $1.5 million. Each corporate donor can receive only $100,000
in tax credits each year, and cannot use surplus donations in one year to generate tax credits
in future years.
Enacted 1999 • Launched 2000
Illinois provides individual tax credits covering educational expenses for students in any
private or public school, including tuition, books, and lab or activity fees. The credit is worth
a maximum of $500.
Many small towns in Maine do not operate high schools, and some do not have elementary schools.
Students in those towns are eligible for vouchers to attend public schools in other towns or non-religious
private schools, even outside the state. The “sending” towns pay tuition directly to the “receiving”
schools. Although most towns allow parents to choose which schools will receive their students, some
towns send all their students to one school.
Many small towns in Vermont do not operate high schools, and some do not have elementary
schools. Students in those towns are eligible for vouchers to attend public schools in other
towns or non-religious private schools, even those outside the state. The “sending” towns pay
tuition directly to the “receiving” schools. For 2012-13, tuition amounts were $11,119 for grades
K-6 and $12,461 for grades 7-12. The Vermont Department of Education’s calculations show
an average of $13,958 being spent on per-pupil tuition. Although most towns allow parents
to choose which schools will receive their students, some towns send all their students to one