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National Center on School Choice
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What is school choice?

School choice means options. That is, the options parents have when it comes to educating their children, like choosing between a neighborhood public or charter school, or using a voucher to send their child to a private school.

Why study school choice?

Public concern about education in America is growing, and with it questions of what works and what doesn’t, who has access to choice and who doesn’t, and what policymakers, educators, and parents themselves are doing about it. Research sheds light on these areas, helping lead us to better policy and practice.

What schooling options are there?

Options basically fall into two categories. First are schools of choice, all schools that aren’t regular public schools—magnet, private, charter, homeschools. In the U.S., there are about 133,000 schools; of those, about 40,000, or one third, are schools of choice. Second are choice programs, like open enrollment, school transfer options, vouchers, and tax credits. Currently, 47 states have some kind of open enrollment policy; all 50 have the school transfer option under No Child Left Behind, 9 states offer public or privately-funded vouchers, and 7 states offer tax credits.

What are magnet schools?

Public schools that specialize in a particular area, like science or the arts, to encourage desegregation by drawing students from multiple neighborhoods and districts to the same school.

What are charter schools?

Public schools that are funded by the government but run under a charter by parents, educators, community groups, or private organizations to encourage school autonomy and innovation.

What is open enrollment?

The freedom to send a child to any public school in or outside of his or her district.

What are vouchers?

School vouchers are payments to parents—from private or public tax funds, or a combination thereof—for a child’s education expenses, usually at a private school.

What are tax credits?

A relatively new form of school choice, these are redirected tax monies or deductions that permit parents to offset private school expenses.

Is the National Center on School Choice for choice?

Objectivity is a fundamental goal of any rigorous research, so the center neither promotes nor opposes school choice.

What are the arguments for and against school choice?

For many Americans, the freedom to choose a school is a given. But for numerous others, it is not. For those without resources—money, transportation, district permission to enroll their kids somewhere else—the local public school is their only option. Some advocates of school choice say this is unacceptable. It’s a matter of choice. Other advocates believe that it’s a matter of change. That is, public schools need to improve. They need more autonomy so they can be more innovative. They need more accountability and competition so they are challenged to succeed. School choice, these advocates say, can provide such essentials.

These arguments make school choice seem like a no-brainer. But there are those who disagree. They believe the movement is not helping American schools or students because choice programs are diverting funds from the public schools. And public schools educate the vast majority of America’s children. Let’s pour our resources into the schools most of our children attend, say these public school advocates. Lining up more options only decreases the overall quality of education in our country, and fails to promote diversity and community.

Vanderbilt University
  The NCSC is funded by a 5 year, $13.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences. Its lead institution is Vanderbilt University in   Nashville, Tennessee. The center is housed on the campus of Peabody College, one of the nation's top graduate schools of education.
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