School Choice & Charters Tracker

Which States Have Private School Choice?

Vouchers, ESAs, tax-credit scholarships: State-funded programs that let parents direct their children’s education are growing
By Libby Stanford, Mark Lieberman & Victoria A. Ifatusin — January 31, 2024 | Updated: June 20, 2024 5 min read
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Programs that direct public money toward private schools of a family’s choosing or family accounts that can cover any education expenses outside the public school system are proliferating.

Parents say they have sought out these programs as a way to deliver an education customized to their children’s unique needs. Politicians championing them say they represent a lifeline for students trapped in underperforming schools. Critics argue the programs deprive public schools of much-needed resources and point out that many children now benefiting from private school choice funds were already attending private schools beforehand. Several private school choice programs are facing lawsuits alleging that they violate state constitutions.

Students taking advantage of private school choice represent a small fraction of the nation’s total K-12 population, but the numbers signing up for new state programs have sometimes exceeded projections.

This tracker provides a concise yet comprehensive snapshot of the private school choice landscape on a rolling basis. In our States to Watch section, we highlight states where new private school choice programs or other notable private school choice policy changes are under consideration. Our glossary defines common terms in discussions about school choice.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have at least one private school choice program, according to an Education Week analysis. Of those, 12 states have at least one private school choice program that’s universally accessible to K-12 students in the state.

21     States have tax-credit scholarships

17     States have education savings accounts

10     States and the District of Columbia have vouchers

2     States have tax-credit education savings accounts

States with at least one universal private school choice program

States with one or more private school choice program

School Choice Glossary

Education Savings Account (ESA)

Education savings accounts provide public per-pupil funds—often a percentage of per-student state funding—to families with children who don’t attend public schools that they can use to pay for private school tuition or other education expenses, such as tutoring and homeschooling supplies. Some states restrict ESAs or specific ESA programs within the state to students with disabilities, students attending schools with poor performance, and/or students from low-income families. Recently, more states have begun adopting universal ESAs, which all families can access regardless of income, disability status, or any other qualifying factor. ESA funds are generally given directly to families, often in the form of debit cards with restrictions on how the money can be spent. While ESAs and vouchers are often used interchangeably, what sets ESAs apart from vouchers are that they can be used for a wide array of education expenses, not just private school tuition. (See EdWeek's 2023 explainer on ESAs.)


School vouchers describe public funds that families can use at private schools of their choice, including those that are religious, to subsidize the cost of student tuition. Many vouchers are restricted to students with disabilities, students attending poor-performing schools, and students from low-income families, but some states have vouchers that are available to any student. (See EdWeek's 2017 explainer on vouchers.)

Tax-Credit Scholarship

Tax-credit scholarship programs provide scholarships to families that they can use at private schools of their choice, including those that are religious. The scholarships most commonly come from state-authorized nonprofit organizations, which issue the scholarships out of donations that they receive from businesses or individual taxpayers who receive tax credits for those donations. Eligibility can be limited based on family income, disability status, or other factors, or it can be universal.

Tax-Credit Education Savings Account

Tax-Credit ESAs are a less common form of ESA through which families receive a designated, per-pupil amount from a state-authorized nonprofit organization that administers the account. Families can use the funds to cover any educational expense, including private school tuition, tutoring, or homeschooling costs. Businesses and individual taxpayers receive tax credits for donations to those nonprofit organizations.

States to watch

An ongoing look at significant private school choice policy development:


Lawmakers in both houses in mid-March approved adding to the 2024 ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would pave the way for private school choice. Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, has vowed to campaign against approval of the measure if it ends up on the ballot. A 2022 effort to create private school choice programs in the state was struck down by the Kentucky Supreme Court.


Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican, on June 19 signed a law that eliminates one of the state’s existing voucher programs and establishes an education savings account program. The legislation requires the state board of education to develop procedures for creating the program, and defers the question of how much money to allocate for the program until the 2025-26 school year at the earliest.

The new law represents a departure from an earlier proposal that would have made education savings accounts available to all students by the 2028-29 school year. Some lawmakers urged caution before potentially investing hundreds of millions of dollars.


A coalition of public school advocacy groups successfully petitioned to secure a spot on the November 2024 ballot for a referendum asking voters whether to repeal or maintain the state’s tax credit scholarship program, signed into law in 2023.

In response, lawmakers have approved a bill that will essentially negate the ballot measure by eliminating the 2023 program and replacing it with a new one that sends $10 million in state funds directly to scholarship-granting organizations to cover private school tuition. Advocates who secured the referendum earlier this year are in the process of securing signatures on a petition to put the new private school choice program on the November ballot.

Republican lawmakers in February also introduced a proposal for an education savings account worth $1,500. If passed, the program would be open to all private school students who submit an application, and it would launch in the 2025-26 school year. The bill has not advanced.


Republicans and a handful of Democrats in the Senate in early May revived a proposal that would offer vouchers worth up to $10,000 per student in the state’s lowest-performing schools. In June, the billionaire rapper Jay-Z announced a high-profile effort to lobby for passage of the voucher bill.

Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, has signaled support for a limited private school choice program in the state, though many Democratic lawmakers in both houses remain staunchly opposed.

State lawmakers are separately grappling with ongoing efforts to increase public school funding after a judge ruled last year that the state’s existing approach is unconstitutional. The two issues are likely to dominate legislative debate in the coming weeks.

South Carolina

The House of Representatives approved legislation on March 20 that would put the state’s education savings account program on track for universal eligibility starting with the 2026-27 school year. Currently, the program, set to begin in fall 2024, is open to a maximum of 5,000 of the state’s lowest-income students, though the cap will be raised to 15,000 students over the next several years. The state supreme court, meanwhile, is set to hear a challenge to the existing law in May.


Gov. Greg Abbott has aggressively lobbied state lawmakers to establish an education savings account program in the state. But recent legislative efforts faltered as some rural Republicans held firm that private school choice would be harmful to public schools in districts that lack private school options.

Abbott launched targeted campaigns worth close to $6 million to oust Republican state lawmakers who opposed private school choice. In March, nine of those incumbent lawmakers lost to Abbott-backed challengers in primary elections. On May 29, another three incumbents fell to Abbott-backed challengers in runoff elections. Abbott declared victory and said he believes private school choice proponents now have the votes to pass a new program during next year’s legislative session.

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How to Cite This Page

Which States Have Private School Choice? (2024, January 31). Education Week. Retrieved Month Day, Year from


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