K-12 public education has long been viewed as a pillar of our nation’s democracy. It is an underpinning for civic engagement, quality of life, and economic opportunity. Study after study highlight that high quality public education produces students who are healthier, wealthier, and more engaged citizens. Studies have also substantiated that supporting public education does make a difference—investments in public education result in many positive externalities for communities, states, and the nation.
For more than three decades state legislatures, and more recently Congress, have debated the pros and cons of school choice to introduce “competition” and drive improvement in student achievement outcomes. Conceptually, school choice is designed to empower the rights of parents to choose the most proper school setting for their children, be it a public school (traditional or charter), private school, or home school. Other policy levers have emerged that further spur the notion of choice, including a multitude of tax credit programs and Education Scholarship Accounts (ESA) that function like a consumer Health Savings Account. For example, Arizona in 2022 passed a universal ESA program for all K-12 education students.
According to research and reports from the Education Commission of the States, the landscape of school choice in states across the nation includes:
43 states have state policies explicitly permitting interdistrict open enrollment (https://www.ecs.org/50- state-comparison-open-enrollment-policies/)
27 voucher programs in 16 states and the District of Columbia (https://www.ecs.org/50-state- comparison-private-school-choice/)
6 states with ESA programs
24 scholarship tax credit programs in 19 states
45 states and the District of Columbia have charter school laws (https://www.ecs.org/charter-school-policies/)
An escalation of social and political challenges confronts K-12 public education more than ever before. Despite these challenges, and the expanding market of school choice, public schools continue to remain the schools of choice for parents. Nationwide, according to the NCES Condition of Education 2022 report, more than 49.4 million students attend a public school compared to 4.7 million students in private schools, and 1.7 million students who are homeschooled. (retrieved January 3, 2022, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/#indicators).
The Consortium of State School Boards Association (COSSBA) opposes increased federal government activity and funding for non-public school choice options, including but not limited to voucher, tax credit, and ESA programs. These programs divert funding from public schools, lack financial transparency and accountability, are subject to less regulation and oversight.
Click the button to download the COSSBA Position Paper on this issue.