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What are School Vouchers?

School vouchers give parents the freedom to choose a private school for their children, using all or part of the public funding set aside for their children’s education.

Under such a program, funds typically spent by a school district would be allocated to a participating family in the form of a voucher to pay partial or full tuition for their child’s private school, including both religious and non-religious options.

There are 25 voucher programs in 16 states—Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana (2), Maine, Maryland, Mississippi (2), New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio (5), Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin (4)—and Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

Watch the short video below to see how school vouchers work for families.

Blank map of the United States and its territories Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming District of Columbia Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands Guam Northern Mariana Islands American Samoa District of Columbia

Fourteen States, Two Districts and/or Territories with Vouchers

Check out the list below for quick links to those program details, which include approved expense types, family eligibility tests, participation numbers, funding amounts and more.

Pros and Cons of School Vouchers

Pros of School Vouchers

School voucher programs—if well designed—improve students’ academic performance, according to the available research. In fact, the opportunity created by school voucher programs actually drives improvement in public school students’ academic performance, as well. Beyond that, school voucher programs foster more racial and socio-economic integration and better civic values in students.

School choice is designed to help all children, regardless of their income or neighborhood. The ZIP Code-based public education system has kept low-income kids out of quality schools, and studies have shown it also has contributed to—nay, exacerbated—socioeconomic segregation in public schools for decades. Every study of school voucher programs, on the other hand, shows they help students go from more segregated schools to more integrated schools.

School vouchers also save states and taxpayers money while educating more kids than our current public school system can alone. Visit our Fiscal Research & Education Center (FREC) dashboards to learn more.

Cons of School Vouchers

There’s a common misconception that if students leave a public school using voucher funds, those who choose to stay will have less money and fall behind academically.

This is a limited way of thinking about public schools. Just because some children choose to leave for a different environment doesn’t mean the students who don’t are “left behind” or “trapped.” Many of our public schools are a great fit for a lot of kids.

There’s little research that supports the allegation that school choice harms students who stay in their public schools. In fact, those students tend to experience small gains on test scores. Of the 26 studies that examine the competitive effects of school choice programs on public schools, 24 found positive effects, one saw no visible effect and one found some negative effects for some kids.

Fast Facts About School Vouchers

Do you know which of America’s school voucher programs is the biggest? Which school voucher program was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States? For more little-known truths about America’s school voucher programs, visit our school voucher fast facts.