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Overview of School Choice


Q. What exactly is "school choice"?


It is K-12 education offered free of charge to parents, and paid for by taxpayers. It takes many shapes:


  • Open enrollment within a district, in which the student can go to any public school within the boundaries of the district in which he or she lives;


  • Open enrollment within a city, in which the student can enroll in any public school within a city or even a metropolitan area or region, with certain restrictions such as a lottery system for schools in which there are more students who want to attend than there are seats open;


  • Magnet schools, which are typically traditionally-managed public schools with specialized themes, such as "math and science" or "global education," which can draw students from across a wide geographic area;


  • Charter schools, which are public schools funded by tax dollars but which are not traditionally managed but have more flexibility in their rules about the school calendar, curriculum, teacher credentials and so forth;


  • Vouchers, which pay all or part of the tuition at the private school of the student's choice;


  • Tuition tax credits to financially help parents who want to send their children to a private school and give up their right to taxpayer funding of their child's education, so they deserve a tax break;


  • Private scholarships, in which private-sector corporations and individuals donate money to a nonprofit fund, and receive a tax exemption, so that the tuition to a private school can be paid or subsidized for a low-income student whose family could not otherwise afford to pay private-school tuition but want their child to go there;


  • Town tuitioning, most popular in the upper Northeast, in which small rural communities pool their tax dollars to contract with a private school to educate the children (free of charge) from the individual rural communities in one centrally-located private school.



Homework: See an overview of school choice programs across the United States on:


By Susan Darst Williams Choice & Charters 01 2008


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