What is Educational Choice?
Generally speaking, educational choice is the process of allowing every family to choose the K-12 educational options that best fit their children. Every child is unique, and all children learn differently. Some children might succeed at their assigned public school, while others might fit in better in a different environment. That’s why educational choice is so important!
Kentucky currently has very limited options when it comes to educational choice. However, there are several popular choice programs across the United States. Below are examples of some of the different types of choice programs and proposals.
Education Opportunity Accounts
EdChoice Kentucky focuses on a proposal called Educational Opportunity Accounts. This program does not currently exist in Kentucky. If adopted, an EOA would allow privately donated funds to be deposited into an account that can be used to pay for the education that best suits the needs of a particular family’s children This could include anything from career and technical training, public and non-public K-12 school tuition or fees, books and supplies, virtual school, special needs education, to therapies from an array of public and non-public providers or tutors. You can learn more about this proposal by viewing the video below.
Public School Choice
In most cases, students are assigned to their public school district based on their home address. Kentucky is fairly restrictive when it comes to allowing a student to choose a public school outside of their assigned district. Some Kentucky districts permit open enrollment between schools within a district or even sometimes outside of the district. In some instances, the parents must pay if they wish for their child to attend a public school outside of their assigned district. However, there are other states that provide families with more freedom when it comes to choosing a public school. You can learn more about open enrollment policies by going here.
Charter schools are public schools created by school districts or other authorized entities that typically operate independent of a traditional public school district. Kentucky passed a law in 2017 that authorized the creation of charter schools. However, the law remains unfunded and therefore no charter schools have opened in the Commonwealth. Learn more about charters here.
Private School Choice Programs
Kentucky currently has over 70,000 students enrolled in some form of private school. While the majority of states have adopted policies that support families who wish to attend a private school, Kentucky has yet to do so. Private school choice programs come in many forms.
Some choice programs are funded through private donations incentivized by state tax credits. The Education Opportunity Account proposal mentioned above, along with Scholarship Tax Credit programs rely on this approach. Typically, a donor contributes to a local non-profit which in turn, provides financial assistance to families so that they can afford the cost of private school tuition or other educational expenses.
Programs such as education savings accounts and vouchers rely on taxpayer dollars to help families with the cost of education. Kentucky’s state constitution likely prohibits a taxpayer-funded program and therefore would have to be amended for such a program to exist in the Commonwealth. You can learn more about Private School Choice Programs Here.
Kentucky families can utilize a 529 Account to save money for educational expenses. These savings accounts grow over time free from state and federal taxes. For many years, this program was focused on college savings; but recently expanded to include K-12 expenses, including the cost of tuition. These programs are beneficial but can be challenging to utilize for lower-income families who may not have the capacity to save. You can learn more about 529 Accounts by clicking here.