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Fast Facts

Our Fast Facts exhibit essential private school choice data in one place to make covering school choice issues faster and easier.

We compiled state-level information to provide a national snapshot of vital statistics from the four different types of private school choice programs. Learn more about those and EdChoice below.

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.

EdChoice: Education Savings Accounts

ESAs in Operation

There are eight ESA programs in eight states: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Fast Facts on ESAs

  1. Estimated ESA recipients in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Tennessee: 19,109.
  2. ESAs gained national prominence in 2011, when Arizona created the nation’s first such program.
  3. Florida has the largest ESA program in terms of participation (13,884 enrollees in Fall 2020).
  4. West Virginia has the largest ESA program in terms of statewide eligibility (94 percent of students).
  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. The Nevada Supreme Court declared its nearly universal ESA constitutional in 2016.

School 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.

School Vouchers in Operation

There are 29 voucher programs in 16 states—Arkansas, Florida (2), Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana (2), Maine, Maryland, Mississippi (2), New Hampshire, North Carolina (2), Ohio (5), Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin (4)—and Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

Fast Facts on School Vouchers

  1. Estimated voucher recipients in 16 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico: more than 210,000
  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. Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship Program is the largest operating statewide voucher program in terms of income-based eligibility (56 percent of families with children).
  4. Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program is the nation’s largest voucher program in terms of participation (36,290 enrollees in 2018–19).
  5. Douglas County, Colorado, was home to the only voucher program created by a public school district. In 2017, a newly elected school board rescinded the program.
  6. Washington, D.C., has the only voucher program authorized by the U.S. Congress.
  7. Vouchers—specifically Ohio’s Cleveland Scholarship Program—were declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris).

Tax-credit ESAs allow taxpayers to receive full or partial tax credits when they donate to nonprofit organizations that fund and manage parent-directed K-12 education savings accounts. Families may use those funds to pay for multiple education-related expenses, including private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, community college costs, higher education expenses and other approved customized learning services and materials, and roll over unused funds from year to year to save for future educational expenses. Some tax-credit ESAs, but not all, even allow students to use their funds to pay for a combination of public school courses and private services.

Tax-Credit ESAs on the Books

There is two tax-credit ESA programs in two states: Kentucky and Missouri.

Fast Facts on Tax-Credit ESAs

  1. Tax-credit ESAs are the newest type of private educational choice program.
  2. Kentucky enacted the first program of this kind in 2021: the Education Opportunity Account Program.
  3. Kentucky’s tax-credit ESA program makes 47 percent of families income-eligible in applicable counties.
  4. The maximum account value for Kentucky’s tax-credit ESA equates to about 40 percent of state public school per-student spending.

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

Fast Facts on Tax-Credit Scholarships

  1. Estimated tax-credit scholarship recipients in 20 states: nearly 300,000
  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. Florida has the largest tax-credit scholarship program in terms of participation (108,570 enrollees).
  4. Arizona’s Original Individual Income Tax Credit Scholarship Program is the largest tax-credit scholarship program in terms of statewide eligibility (100 percent of students).
  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.

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 K–12 Tax Credits & Deductions in Operation

There are 11 individual tax credit and deduction programs in nine states—Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota (2), Ohio (2), South Carolina and Wisconsin.

Fast Facts on Individual K–12 Tax Credits & Deductions

  1. Estimated number of tax returns claiming tax credits for educational expenses in five states: more than 840,000.
  2. Tax credits for educational expenses, including private school tuition, were started in Iowa in 1987.
  3. Illinois has the largest tax credit program in terms of participation (297,492 tax returns in 2016).
  4. Illinois’, Minnesota’s and Iowa’s credit/deduction programs are the nation’s largest in terms of eligibility (100 percent of taxpaying families).
  5. South Carolina has the most generous tax credit, which is worth about $6,211 on average.
  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). 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).

About EdChoice

EdChoice is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, dedicated to advancing educational freedom and choice for all as a pathway to successful lives and a stronger society.

EdChoice Priorities

Educate diverse audiences about school choice and its benefits.
EdChoice is a national leader in school choice research. We publish dozens of studies, surveys, legislative analyses and blog posts each year to help the public, the media and key stakeholders understand how school choice is affecting families and students across the United States and internationally. Our premise is simple: The more people know about and understand educational choice, the more they can help advance the movement.

Train supporters and policymakers to advocate for high-quality choice programs.
For too long, parents have been told to sit down, be quiet and let the professionals handle their kids. Policymakers have similarly been bullied by those who seek to protect and preserve an educational system that has chronically failed many of those who most depend on it as their pathway to a successful life. We offer a selection of trainings to help school choice supporters learn how to advocate for high-quality programs that put students first.

Engage in activities that generate results for students and families.
We know from experience that bringing new school choice programs to fruition takes a lot of hard work, and we know true educational choice faces long odds in places where allegiance to the past comes before serving students. That’s why we’re focused on engaging at the state level where it makes the most sense while supporting school choice efforts more broadly with our research, outreach and trainings.

 

Suggested Citation
“Fast Facts on School Choice,” EdChoice, last modified May 28, 2019, http://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/fast-facts/.