Giving Students and Families a Voice With Choice
January 21 – 27 is National School Choice Week (NSCW), the annual celebration of education opportunity in the country, and this NSCW has a lot to celebrate. With another banner year for education choice, 2023 saw eight states expand or create universal or near-universal choice programs. On top of this, dozens of other programs were expanded to offer new opportunities to students, from choice programs, non-traditional public schools, microschools, and others. Now millions of students across the country have new educational opportunities afforded to them.
In Tennessee, Governor Lee’s recent announcement of Education Freedom Accounts, a statewide Education Savings Account (ESA) program, was welcoming news to families and students. Not only are statewide educational choice programs good policy to give students new opportunities, they’re supported by the majority of Tennesseans, whether Republican, Democrat, or Independent. In a recent Beacon Poll, 68 percent of Tennesseans support giving all Tennessee students educational options through an ESA.
But Tennessee is far from the first to return power to every family across the state. In the past three years, 10 states have created or expanded current school choice programs to all or nearly all families. And it’s unlikely to stop with the Volunteer State. Just as Tennessee’s legislature reconvened, there are already lawmakers in other states voicing their support of expanding educational options in their state.
Legislators in states like Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas, and others have gone on the record for creating or expanding educational choice to more students in their states, with many hoping for a universal expansion. Support for education choice programs remains high, not just in Tennessee. Recent polling nationally mirrors what we have seen in Tennessee, with nearly 70 percent of the general public supporting ESAs. Among school parents, ESAs poll even higher at 77 percent.
Universal education choice is a popular policy and its benefits don’t stop at providing students new educational opportunities. Research around school choice shows 84 percent of 187 empirical studies show positive effects, including increased parental satisfaction, improved fiscal effects, and even improvement among public schools. Educational choice is a rising tide that lifts all boats. Hopefully, one year, National School Choice Week will celebrate all students having the educational opportunity to attend the school that best fits their unique needs.