In 2004, Milton Friedman wrote, “A far more effective and equitable way for government to finance education is to finance students, not the schools.” It very likely was the first time an education leader proposed the idea of funding students, not schools.
In recent years, however, the transformation of education in America has accelerated. The rate of students receiving funding to support their school choice is steadily increasing. School closures during the pandemic led to increased interest among parents, students, and educators for a “different, not just better” approach to learning.
This accelerated transformation would not be possible without decades of leaders advocating for new approaches to education policy and learning models for American students.
EdChoice, a longstanding partner of Stand Together Trust, is one of those leaders who’s been laying the groundwork that’s enabling more families to choose the best education path for their children.
Founded by Milton and Rose Freidman in 1996, the comprehensive work of EdChoice has been a compass for advocates of educational freedom and choice ever since.
The organization’s research, trainings for policymakers, advocates, and parents, and expert advice for state-level policy have contributed to 76 education choice programs across 32 states in the United States, impacting more than 724,000 students — and their work only continues to grow. That steadfast work is paying off today more than ever, with some of the nation’s most expansive and impactful programs being considered and enacted in states like Iowa, Arkansas, and West Virginia (among many others), where EdChoice has been educating and advocating for years.
Supporting individualized education in each state
EdChoice was founded on a simple vision — that parents should have more power and options to individualize their child’s education. To give families the freedom to choose, state education policy must be conducive to educational freedom.
“Like our founder, Milton Friedman, we believe that families know what’s best for their child’s education which is why we are encouraged to see so many states creating ESA programs with universal eligibility this year,” said Robert Enlow, President and CEO of EdChoice. “The Friedmans’ vision of unencumbered and universal choice was first realized in Arizona last year, and today, we have half a dozen states offering these types of programs to all students.”
EdChoice has served as the nation’s education choice support organization for decades, comprehensively addressing the state-by-state challenges with resources and expertise: in-depth research, coalition support, expert advice and analysis, trainings and outreach, communications, and legal support – just to list some of their work.
Specifically, EdChoice, which published the first ever national ESA paper in 2012, has been a longtime advocate of education savings accounts (ESAs), school vouchers, tax-credit scholarships and individual tax credits and deductions.
School choice is legal at the federal level and the Supreme Court has ruled that public funding can be allocated for parents to use for K-12 education, including faith-based schools. But the implementation of education choice programs varies from state to state. The work of EdChoice has been essential to expanding education freedom in a number of states.
“We’ve been working for several years to expand educational opportunities for all Iowa students,” explains Iowa State Senate President Amy Sinclair. “From scholarship tax credits to district open enrollment, we want to support the decisions made by families for children. This year, we were finally able to pass one of the most comprehensive educational savings account programs in the nation. The help and support of EdChoice was invaluable to me over the decade I’ve been working on the issues related to choice in education.”
Representative Keith Brooks from Arkansas agrees. “EdChoice has been an invaluable resource and partner … as we worked to pass the Arkansas LEARNS initiative,” he said. “Having solid, evidence-based data to support the importance of education freedom, and a team we could consistently count on, proved to be a winning formula.”
Their work is for more than just the individual state use, too. EdChoice catalogs a great deal of its research on its website. Dashboards for public opinion surveys, polling, and finances of public schools allow for national overviews and state-specific data filtering. This allows any policymaker, media member, educator, or parent to easily access and understand the opportunities for and obstacles facing education freedom in their state. In the past couple of years, their work has been cited by media outlets like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, POLITICO, and USA Today. Particularly, their polling data is being cited, helping parents, educators, lawmakers, and education advocates keep a pulse on public sentiment.
For example, only about one-third of Americans believe that K-12 education is headed in the right direction, according to EdChoice polling. Additionally, support for educational freedom options like vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and ESAs remains high among Americans, according to EdChoice data. Making it no surprise then that their annual publication “The ABCs of School Choice” is the “most comprehensive, data-rich guide to all of America’s K–12 ESAs, school vouchers, tax-credit ESAs and tax-credit scholarships” and the “most-cited school choice guide by lawmakers across the country.”
“Giving families the freedom and funds necessary to educate their children where and how they see fit truly is the gold standard when it comes to educational choice,“ Enlow said.
As innovators, educators, and policymakers continue to create new, individualized paths for learning, there is no question that EdChoice will be a stalwart champion for more education choices and freedom.
To learn about EdChoice, visit https://www.edchoice.org/