The United States faces an education crisis, and despite the best efforts of parents and teachers, far too many low- and middle-income children are seeing their dreams denied.
School choice advocates believe that children should have the opportunity to go to better schools—right away—including private schools via opportunity scholarships (most commonly called school vouchers), special needs scholarship programs, scholarship tax credit programs and education savings accounts. While the AFC Growth Fund focuses primarily on those avenues to a higher quality education, advocates also believe that states should eliminate all barriers preventing the growth of high-quality private and charter schools, virtual schools, online learning options, and home schooling.
Today, there are 41 private school choice programs serving more than 308,000 children across the nation. These programs exist in 20 states and the District of Columbia and Douglas County, CO. See below to learn more about the types of programs we support.
Opportunity scholarships & school vouchers
Opportunity scholarship programs (most commonly called school vouchers) allow disadvantaged children to receive state-funded scholarships to attend the schools of their parents’ choice. These programs provide crucial options to children who too often are forced to attend failing schools.
There are several types of voucher programs currently operating:
- Means-tested (or means-preferenced) voucher programs are targeted to low-income families who meet specific income criteria. Ten programs of this kind are currently operating.
- Failing schools voucher programs are targeted to children who attend low-performing public schools. Two programs of this kind are currently operating.
- Special needs scholarship programs are targeted to children with special educational needs. Typically, they require the student to have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to qualify. Ten programs of this kind are currently operating.
Scholarship tax credit programs
Scholarship tax credit programs provide state tax credits to businesses and individuals that donate money to scholarship funds that help children attend the private schools of their parents’ choice. Rather than being operated by the government, these scholarship programs are run by nonprofit, tax-exempt, scholarship-granting organizations. The scholarships do not originate from state appropriations but from private charitable donations made under the provisions of the tax code. Accordingly, they are not funded by public agencies. Scholarship-granting organizations use their own criteria for distributing scholarship monies to eligible students. States monitor these organizations to ensure financial accountability.
- Seventeen scholarship tax credit programs are currently operating.
- Frequently, laws require that eligible families meet certain income criteria. These programs are known as means-tested or means preferenced scholarship tax credit programs. There are 13 programs of this kind currently operating.
- There are two scholarship programs that specifically aim to assist special needs children.
education savings account PROGRAMS
Education savings account programs give parents the power to use their child’s state education dollars on a variety of educational options, including tuition and fees, textbooks, and tutoring. In these programs, families receive a debit card with funds available for approved education expenses and are able to choose the best education for their children.
- There are education savings account programs currently operation.
- Arizona’s ESA program is available to children with special needs or foster care, families of active duty military personnel or children who lost a parent in active duty, and children zoned to attend a failing school.
- Florida’s ESA program is tailored for special needs children.