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This Back-To-School Season, Celebrate The Boom Of Educational Choice

Sara Huckabee Sanders signing school choice legislation
Image CreditTHV11/YouTube

2023 was the year of school choice, and the movement is only just beginning.


With school starting just this week for so many schools across the country, more students than ever will be in charter, private, or homeschool classrooms rather than traditional public schools.

We’re only halfway through 2023, and it has already proven to be the year of school choice. This year, legislation prioritizing educational freedom has won in states across the nation like never before.

The onset of the ill-founded pandemic lockdowns in our education system revealed some of its major problems, chief among them being leftist curriculum and policies that keep children in schools where test scores prove they aren’t successful. A combination of an inside look into students’ curriculum and the learning loss that came with their being exiled from classrooms finally ignited the school choice revolution our nation is seeing this year.

Although 2021 saw an increased interest in school choice legislation, with 12 states enacting more than 15 pieces of legislation expanding school choice, momentum has only increased since then. Several states passed sweeping school choice measures during the past six months — all of which championed education policies that place students first and grant them the freedom to choose the schools that best fit their learning needs.

In the height of the pandemic years from 2020 to 2022, nearly 2 million students left traditional public schools to pursue alternative schooling. In less than two years, the number of states with universal Education Savings Accounts programs has increased from zero to eight. In just 20 years, the number of students attending charter schools has jumped from 1 percent to 7.5 percent

The clear success of these existing programs has fueled the drive for more states to establish school choice options of their own for the first time, casting out the one-size-fits-all education model that fails so many students.

For parents alarmed by their children’s dropping test scores over the last three years, including 30-year lows in math and reading, school choice can be the answer. The positive relationship between National Assessment of Education Achievement (NAEP) test scores and the degree of school choice in a given state serves as evidence. Another study finds that charter school effectiveness has been increasing over time as successful charter schools expand.

This year now stands out as the most historic year for school choice progress in our nation’s history. In 2023 alone, legislators have introduced 137 bills advancing school choice in 42 states. Some of the biggest legislative highlights this year include Arkansas’ comprehensive L.E.A.R.N.S. Act, Florida’s law expanding school choice vouchers to all students, Utah’s law allowing parents to choose the best school for their children, and Iowa’s school choice law that stands among the most comprehensive in the nation.

The America First Policy Institute’s Center for Education Opportunity has supported many of these efforts by educating legislators about the importance of school choice and providing expert testimony.

In Arkansas, our efforts made a difference, and the L.E.A.R.NS. Act ensures Arkansas parents will have the right to choose which type of school is best suited for their child. It prioritizes access to effective teachers, the increase of record-low test scores, and the use of federal and state funds to expand quality childhood education.

Another major early win was Arizona’s passage of the first-ever universal school choice bill in the U.S. in 2022. The law allows any child to opt out of public school and access up to $6,500 to spend on private schools, charter schools, or homeschooling.

Iowa’s law is also a model for school choice this year. As the Iowa legislative session began, AFPI doubled its effort to ensure a victory for school choice in Iowa. Iowa’s legislation is even more expansive than Arizona’s, allowing parents of children in grades K-12 to receive funding for school-related needs such as private tuition, scholarships worth $7,598 per student in the first year, school supplies, or a tutor.

As of the start of the 2023 school year, 32 states have school choice. Eleven of those states have Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) that give families access to public per-pupil funds to cover tuition costs, homeschool supply fees, technology, curriculum materials, and even tutoring services. Additionally, 15 states and Washington, D.C., offer voucher programs that often benefit students from low-income backgrounds and provide opportunities to receive state-funded scholarships or attend private school.

Texas and Georgia have not yet made the same strides as other states, but they have comprehensive school choice legislation on the docket for this fall.

At the federal level, the Educational Choice for Children Act, which is currently being considered in Congress, would expand private school choice to all 50 states. The America First Policy Institute will continue educating Americans about the importance of expanding educational freedom and capitalizing on this newfound strength within today’s roaring school choice revolution.

A child’s education should not be determined by his parents’ income or zip code. It’s time to unlock the promise that a great education provides by allowing parents and students to choose the school that best fits their educational needs and interests.

More than ever before, this year state leaders were able to reform the education system and reignite excellence. 2023 was the year of school choice, and the movement is only just beginning.

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