Choice 101

Here at West Virginia Voices for Education Choices we are all about teaching people about education choice, connecting families to education resources, and advocating for expanded educational freedom in West Virginia. Our Choice101 section serves to highlight the primary forms of education choice available throughout the United States that we hope to see come to the Mountain State. Scroll to learn more about the various forms of education choice!

Inter/Intra District Public School Choice is often referred to as open enrollment. This is an education choice opportunity that some states allow that doesn’t require leaving the traditional public school system. However, unlike the traditional public school model, students aren’t restricted to the school that is assigned to their zip-code and are allowed to attend another public school. Intra District Public School Choice allows a student to attend any public school within a school district while Inter District Public School Choice allows a student to attend any public school within their state. Since this is still public school, it is tax payer funded and doesn’t require any additional means of funding.

Want to learn more about Inter/Intra District Public School Choice? Visit our Resources page to discover more about education freedom!

Tax Credit Scholarships are private school scholarships given to students through a non-profit that is funded by tax payer donations. This scholarship may be directed toward a specific kind of educational program, a specific group of people, or it may be more general in nature. However, it is funded through individual donations to the non-profit which is administering the scholarship.

To encourage donations to scholarship funds like this, the government provides a tax credit to those who donated to the scholarship. When filing income taxes, those that donated may receive a portion or all of the money they donated back in the form of an income tax reimbursement. Parents can find a non-profit that offers a scholarship that suits the needs of their student. Taxpayers who want to help alleviate the burden of private school tuition for students in their state may donate to a non-profit that is offering a scholarship that they wish to support.

Want to learn more about Tax Credit Scholarships? Visit our Resources page to explore this and many other education choice options!

Individual Tax Credits and Deductions are another way states can increase educational freedom for families. Individual Tax Credits and Deductions are income tax based reimbursements provided to families when they file their income taxes. Parents pay for their educational expenses out of pocket. They keep their receipts for eligible expenses and report them when filing their income taxes. Tax credits lower the total taxes a person owes; a deduction reduces a person’s total taxable income. This form of education choice is usually most helpful for families that can already, to some extent, afford private education options for their children. The state can limit the size of tax credits and deductions which will influence how much tax paying parents can get back. Some states offer refundable tax credits which allow parents to receive a refund check for all or part of their education expenses.

Want to learn more about Individual Tax Credits and Deductions? Visit our Resources page to discover what education options are available to you!

School Vouchers are one of the more well known forms of education choice. The voucher represents a portion of tax dollars earmarked for education funding that can be redirected to a school that the student or student’s parents choose other than their assigned public school district. A school voucher is essentially a certificate of government funding given to a parent to be used to send a child to a private school. A parent receives their school voucher and uses it to pay for part or all of the tuition at a private school that will accept a voucher as payment. School vouchers expand private education opportunities to families that would not be able to otherwise afford them helping to ensure equal access regardless of social or economic status.

Want to learn more about School Vouchers? Visit our Resources page to learn more.

Education Savings Accounts (ESA) are one of the most flexible and versatile forms of education choice. ESA’s are accounts, typically with a debit card attached to them, in which the government places the money it would’ve spent on a student’s public school education. An ESA allows the money allotted per pupil to follow the student rather than their assigned school district. ESA’s can be used to pay for any number of approved education expenses. For example, a parent could use the money in their child’s ESA to pay for private school tuition, homeschooling curriculum, private tutoring, virtual schooling, special needs therapy, and in some cases a combination of public and private school class options. Some models for the ESA also allow remaining funds at the end of a year to be saved toward the student’s higher education. ESA’s allow parents to tailor their individual student’s education while ensuring that tax dollars allotted for education funding are being used for that purpose.

Want to learn more about Education Savings Accounts? Visit our Resources page to find more information.

Magnet schools are the largest form of education choice in the United States. A Magnet school is a public school that offers a specialized curriculum or program. Magnet schools are created to attract specific groups of students with similar skillsets to help train them in that specialized area. Examples of specializations: Fine arts, STEM, Career education, etc. Students are not limited by their zip code or school district and can apply to a magnet school regardless of socio-economic status.

Magnet schools are similar to Charter schools in that parents do not have to pay additional money or use vouchers or ESA’s to pay for school tuition. Tuition is paid for through tax dollars just like with traditional public schools. Magnet schools are different from Charter schools in that they are typically run by the same school board as traditional public schools rather than an outside agency and magnet schools have to adhere to the same regulations as traditional public schools while Charter schools often have relaxed regulations.

Interested in Magnet Schools? Learn more by visiting our Resources page!

Charter schools are independently operated schools which are publicly funded. They offer an alternative to traditional public schools while maintaining public funding through taxes. Parents do not need to pay any money out of pocket or use a voucher or ESA to pay for charter school tuition since they are funded with tax payer dollars just like traditional public schools. They tend to have fewer regulations than traditional public schools and increased accountability which can provide for increased quality and flexibility in education. Students are given the option to attend a charter school without regard for their zip code; however, they often have to go through an application process or take part in a lottery system to determine which students will be accepted each year.

Interested in Charter Schools? Learn more about them by visiting our Resources page!

Virtual Learning is an innovation in education choice thanks to modern technology that allows students to learn regardless of the physical location of themselves or their teacher. It is often referred to as online learning since it takes place largely over the internet. Virtual Learning can be an add on to traditional schooling, a means of homeschooling, or it’s own independent form of schooling. There are both private and public forms of online schooling. Virtual Learning allows a greater degree of flexibility for both the student and the teacher since they don’t have to be in the same place physically and often the student can work through online curriculum at their own pace. Some forms of virtual learning are a part of public school programs, which parents don’t have to pay any additional money for, while some forms of virtual learning are funded through vouchers or ESA’s.

Interested in learning more about Virtual Learning? Visit our Resources page to discover more about education freedom!

Homeschooling is an option that many families choose for their children. There are a variety of reasons families choose this option, and it can often serve as an opportunity for family bonding, customized learning, and increased flexibility in learning and scheduling. There is no single way to homeschool and there are a variety of curriculums provided by various organizations and companies that parents can use. The options for homeschooling are endless and allow parents to have much closer control over the learning outcomes they desire for their children.

Some families homeschool all of their children while some only homeschool the ones they feel need a more individually tailored education. There are homeschool co-op groups that can provide community and group learning opportunities for families that choose homeschooling for their children over more traditional forms of schooling. Each state has different laws regarding homeschool requirements, so it is important to do some research before embarking on your own homeschool journey.

Interested in Homeschooling for your family? Visit our Resources page to learn more!

Town Tuitioning is a lesser known education choice option. It is the oldest form of education choice in the country. Town Tuitioning began in Vermont in 1869 and allows students who live in towns that do not have public schools the freedom to go elsewhere to pursue an education. The sending town pays school tuition directly to the “receiving” school, which can be any public or private, non-religious school in or outside Vermont.

Want to learn more about Town Tuitioning? Visit our Resources page where you can learn about the education choice programs provided throughout the country!