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Fast Facts

Our Fast Facts exhibit essential school choice data in one place

TO MAKE COVERING SCHOOL CHOICE ISSUES FASTER AND EASIER

Right now, there are 61 school choice programs on the books in 30 states and the District of Columbia. We compiled available state-level information to provide a national snapshot of vital statistics from the four different types of school choice programs. Learn more about those and the Friedman Foundation below.

About Vouchers

Vouchers give parents a portion of the public funding set aside for their children’s education to choose private schools. State funds typically expended by a school district are allocated to families in the form of a voucher to pay partial or full tuition at a private school, including religious and non-religious options.

Vouchers in Operation

There are 26 voucher programs in 15 states—Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana (2), Maine, Maryland, Mississippi (2), North Carolina (2), Ohio (5), Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin (4)—and Washington, D.C.

Fast Facts on Vouchers

  1. 1

    Estimated voucher recipients in 12 states and Washington, D.C.: 168,100.

  2. 2

    Vouchers gained national prominence in 1990, with the creation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Two voucher programs existed prior to that (Vermont: 1869, Maine: 1873).

  3. 3

    Ohio’s Income-Based Scholarships is the largest voucher program in terms of statewide income-based eligibility (60 percent of families with children).

  4. 4

    Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program is the nation’s largest voucher program in terms of participation (32,686 enrollees in 2015–16).

  5. 5

    Douglas County, Colorado, is home to the only voucher program created by a public school district. Currently, it is not operating as litigation continues.

  6. 6

    Washington, D.C., has the only voucher program authorized by the U.S. Congress.

  7. 7

    Vouchers—specifically Ohio’s Cleveland Scholarship Program—were declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris).

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About Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)

Education savings accounts allow parents to withdraw their children from public district or charter schools and receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts. Those funds can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, educational therapies, community college costs, and other higher education expenses.

For a handout explaining how ESAs work for families, how they should be funded, and key policy features of existing programs, download our printable PDF.

Friedman Foundation: Education Savings Accounts

Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) in Operation

There are five ESA programs in five states: Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, and Tennessee.

Fast Facts on Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)

  1. 1

    Estimated ESA recipients in Arizona, Florida, and Mississippi: 6,850.

  2. 2

    ESAs gained national prominence in 2011, when Arizona created the nation’s first such program. Florida followed suit in 2014. In 2015, Mississippi, Nevada, and Tennessee all created their own ESA programs.

  3. 3

    Florida has the largest ESA program in terms of participation (4,080 enrollees in 2015–16).

  4. 4

    Nevada has the largest ESA program in terms of statewide eligibility (96 percent of students).

  5. 5

    ESAs were essentially declared constitutional by the Arizona Supreme Court in 2014, when it deemed those challenging the program were unable to show harm.

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About Tax-Credit Scholarships

Tax-credit scholarships allow taxpayers to receive full or partial tax credits when they donate to nonprofits that provide private school scholarships. Eligible taxpayers can include both individuals and businesses. The amount of tax credits distributed is capped at an amount determined by the legislature, which, in turn, affects the availability and size of scholarships.

Tax-Credit Scholarships in Operation

There are 21 tax-credit scholarship programs in 17 states—Alabama, Arizona (4), Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania (2), Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Virginia.

Fast Facts on Tax-Credit Scholarships

  1. 1

    Estimated tax-credit scholarship recipients in 15 states: 226,000.

  2. 2

    Tax-credit scholarships gained national prominence in 1997, when Arizona created the nation’s first such program (after its voucher program was declared unconstitutional).

  3. 3

    Florida has the largest tax-credit scholarship program in terms of participation (78,142 enrollees in Fall 2015).

  4. 4

    Montana’s Tax Credits for Contributions to Student Scholarship Organizations program is the largest tax-credit scholarship program in terms of statewide eligibility (100 percent of students).

  5. 5

    Tax-credit scholarships—specifically Arizona’s Corporate Tax Credits for School Tuition Organizations—were essentially declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 (Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn). The Supreme Court dismissed the case, ruling the plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge the program.

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About Individual Tax Credits and Deductions

Through individual tax credits and deductions, parents can receive state income tax relief for approved educational expenses, which can include private school tuition, books, supplies, computers, tutors, and transportation. Tax credits lower the total taxes a person owes; a deduction reduces a person’s total taxable income.

Individual Tax Credits and Deductions in Operation

There are five individual tax credit programs in five states—Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and South Carolina.

Fast Facts on Individual Tax Credits and Deductions

  1. 1

    Estimated number of tax returns claiming tax credits for educational expenses in four states: 493,590.

  2. 2

    Tax credits for educational expenses, including private school tuition, were started in Iowa in 1987.

  3. 3

    Illinois has the largest tax credit program in terms of participation (302,855 tax returns in 2013).

  4. 4

    Illinois’ and Iowa’s tax credit programs are the nation’s largest in terms of eligibility (100 percent of taxpaying families).

  5. 5

    South Carolina has the most generous tax credit, which is worth the lesser of $10,000 per student or their children’s actual cost of attending school.

  6. 6

    Tax credits were declared constitutional in Illinois in 1999, after two lawsuits argued Illinois’s tax credit program violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and religion clauses of the Illinois Constitution. Illinois appellate courts upheld the programs and the Illinois Supreme Court refused to grant appeals (Toney v. Bower, Griffith v. Bower).

Individual Tax Credits and Deductions in Operation

There are four individual tax deduction programs in four states—Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Fast Facts on Individual Tax Credits and Deductions

  1. 1

    Estimated number of tax returns claiming tax deductions for educational expenses in four states: 418,110.

  2. 2

    Tax deductions for educational expenses, including private school tuition, were started in Minnesota in 1955.

  3. 3

    Minnesota has the largest tax deduction program in terms of participation (219,914 tax returns in 2013).

  4. 4

    Minnesota has the largest tax deduction program in terms of eligibility (100 percent of taxpaying families with children).

  5. 5

    Wisconsin has the most generous tax deduction: $10,000 for high school students ($4,000 for grades K–8).

  6. 6

    Tax deductions were declared constitutional in 1983, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Minnesota’s tax deduction program (Mueller v. Allen).

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About the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, dedicated to advancing school choice for all children. The Foundation believes that universal school choice is the most effective and equitable way to improve K-12 education.

FOUNDED BY MILTON AND ROSE D. FRIEDMAN IN 1996

Milton Friedman (1912-2006) was the recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize for Economic Science.

  • Author of 1955 article titled “The Role of Government in Education,” which introduced the idea of school choice to the mainstream.
  • Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988.
  • Leader of the Chicago School of Monetary Economics.
  • Authored with wife, Rose (1910-2009), “Capitalism and Freedom” and “Free to Choose.”

Friedman Foundation Priorities

EDUCATION AND OUTREACH

The Friedman Foundation educates state lawmakers and its local partners on how school choice proposals can empower as many families as possible, use taxpayer dollars wisely, and protect private schools’ autonomy. To that end, the Foundation provides counsel on proposed laws, offers legislative testimony, and hosts educational summits on school choice for diverse audiences.

RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS

The Friedman Foundation produces timely, relevant research that conforms to the highest scientific standards. That work, which includes fiscal analyses, private school surveys, and public opinion polls, has been used and cited by state lawmakers, legislative staff, governors’ offices, and national and local media, including the Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report, the New York Times, and Education Week.

ADVOCACY AND MARKETING

Through advertisements, op-eds, radio/television appearances, and speaking engagements, the Friedman Foundation communicates its vision of school choice. Friedman Foundation staff members have appeared on national cable news and statewide radio programs; their opinions have appeared on the websites of CNN, Fox News, Huffington Post, Forbes, and in the pages of USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune.

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