Parental choice of schools is one of today's most controversial education issues. "Choice" as a descriptor takes on several meanings, and narrow use of the word (e.g., assuming that choice equals only open enrollment or vouchers) often confuses the debate. In this document, "choice" is used as a broad descriptor covering many different ideas.
For this report, the following definitions apply:
“Intradistrict" open enrollment laws allow choice of public schools within district boundaries.
“Interdistrict" open enrollment laws allow choice of public schools across district boundaries.
"Mandatory” open enrollment laws require districts to allow students to transfer to the school of their choice.
"Voluntary" open enrollment laws allow districts to choose whether to allow students to transfer to the school of their choice.
Charter schools are semi-autonomous public schools, founded by educators, parents, community groups or private organizations that operate under a written contract with a state, district or other entity. This contract, or charter, details how the school will be organized and managed, what students will be taught and expected to achieve, and how success will be measured. Many charter schools enjoy freedom from rules and regulations affecting other public schools, as long as they continue to meet terms of their charters. Charter schools can be closed for failing to satisfy these terms.
A publicly funded voucher is a payment the government makes to a parent, or an institution on a parent’s behalf, to be used for a child's education expenses.
Tax Credits and Tax Deductions
A tax credit provides direct reductions to an individual’s tax liability. For example, Jack owes $1,000 in income taxes. He is eligible, however, for a given state’s $500 tax credit. He subtracts the $500 tax credit from the $1,000 tax liability, and now owes $500 in income taxes.
A tax deduction is a reduction in taxable income made prior to the calculation of tax liability. For instance, Jill has a taxable income of $100,000. She, however, is eligible for a given state’s $1,500 tax deduction. She subtracts the $1,500 from her income of $100,000, and now has $98,500 in taxable income.
Dual/concurrent enrollment laws allow secondary school students to enroll in postsecondary courses and apply course credit at the secondary school, a postsecondary institution or both.
"Comprehensive” dual/concurrent enrollment laws meet two or more of the following criteria: students pay minimal or no tuition and fees, both secondary and postsecondary credit is earned for postsecondary courses and few course restrictions exist.
"Limited” dual/concurrent enrollment laws meet one or more of the following criteria: students pay tuition costs of postsecondary classes, there are more academic credit restrictions and there are stringent criteria on eligible courses.