Are you a parent with school-age children, wondering what the hoopla about school choice is all about? Well, you've come to the right place. This article will explain the ins and outs of school choice, helping you make informed decisions for your children's K-12 learning journey.

School choice is a hot topic in the education world right now and allows parents to select the best educational environment for their children. We will explore the different types of school choice programs available, how these programs are typically funded, and the benefits to you as parents, and then explore common misconceptions.

By the end of this article, you'll better understand and be well-equipped to choose the best path for your child's educational journey. So, let's dive in and demystify school choice together!

What is school choice?

School choice refers to the ability of parents to choose the educational setting that best fits the needs and goals of their children. Traditionally, families were assigned to public schools based on their residential address. However, school choice policies have emerged to provide parents with various options beyond their assigned neighborhood school.

Different types of school choice programs

When it comes to school choice, parents have several options to consider. Let's look at each of these options and what they entail.

Charter schools

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that operate independently. They typically have more freedom in their curriculum and teaching methods than traditional public schools. Charter schools often have a specific focus or theme, such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), arts, or language immersion.

One of the advantages of charter schools is their ability to provide innovative and specialized programs that cater to specific interests or learning styles. These schools often have strong community involvement and may offer extracurricular activities and partnerships with local organizations or businesses.

However, it's important to note that charter schools may have limited enrollment capacity, leading to a lottery-based admission system. This means not all students who apply may be accepted, depending on the demand and available spots.

Private schools

The government does not fund private schools, which rely on tuition fees, donations, and endowments to fund their operations. They often offer a more exclusive and personalized educational experience than public schools. Private schools can vary in educational philosophy, teaching methods, and extracurricular activities.

One of the main advantages of private schools is their ability to provide smaller class sizes, allowing for more individualized attention and a closer student-teacher relationship. Private schools also may offer advanced courses or specialized programs.

However, the cost of private education can be a significant factor for many families. Tuition fees can vary widely depending on the school and location. Considering the financial implications before choosing a private school for your child is essential.


Homeschooling is an alternative option where parents are responsible for educating their children at home. It allows for a highly individualized and flexible approach to education. Homeschooling can be tailored to a child's unique learning style, interests, and pace.

One of the advantages of homeschooling is the ability to provide personalized instruction and focus on areas where the child may need extra support or challenge. It also allows for a more flexible schedule, enabling families to incorporate real-world experiences and field trips into their curriculum.

However, homeschooling requires a significant commitment from parents, who must take on the role of teacher and ensure a well-rounded education. A structured plan, access to resources, and a strong support network are crucial to successful homeschooling.

Additional educational resources & support

School choice funds can also provide families with a wide range of educational resources beyond which school your child goes to. These funds can be allocated towards various expenses to provide more holistic support for your child’s learning journey. These expenses may include:

Tutoring Services

For personalized learning support, school choice funds can cover tutoring services, helping students master challenging subjects or improve their academic performance.

Online Learning Apps

In today's digital age, these funds can also be used for online education programs, including Beehive’s Growth Plans, which provide access to diverse learning environments and specialized courses unavailable in traditional settings.

Therapies for Students with Special Needs

Recognizing some students' unique challenges, school choice funds can pay for specialized therapies. This ensures that students with special needs receive the necessary support to thrive academically and personally.

Textbooks and Instructional Materials

Essential learning resources like textbooks and other instructional materials can be purchased with school choice funds, enriching the educational experience with high-quality content.

How are school choice programs funded?

Education savings accounts (ESAs)

Within each state, the revenue required to finance education primarily comes from income and sales taxes contributed by residents. This financial pool supports the state's educational expenditures, including public schooling. Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) represent a strategic shift in utilizing these funds. Instead of directly funding public schools, ESAs allow for allocating state-earmarked educational funds to individual savings accounts designated for students. Families can then use these funds to cover a range of approved educational expenses, including the costs of homeschooling, thereby offering a more personalized approach to education.

It's crucial to understand that ESA programs are primarily funded by state allocations for education, excluding any federal and local tax revenues dedicated to a student's education. Moreover, the amount allocated to ESAs often represents only a portion of the total state funds assigned for a student's education.

School Vouchers

In every state, residents contribute to the state's budget through income and sales taxes. Much of this budget is allocated to education and funding public schools across the state. However, the concept of school vouchers introduces a different approach to utilizing these funds. Instead of the state directly funding public schools, it allows for the allocation of funds designated for a student's public education to be redirected to the student's family. This approach enables families to use these funds towards private school tuition and fees.

Much like ESAs, it's important to note that school voucher programs generally involve only state-allocated funds for education, excluding federal and local tax revenues earmarked for a child's education. Additionally, these programs often cover only a portion of the state funds available for each student.

You can read more about how these programs are funded in our piece on the ABCs of school choice funding.

Benefits of school choice for parents

Now that we've explored the different types of school choice options, let's delve into the benefits that school choice can offer parents.

Greater control and involvement

One of the primary benefits of school choice for parents is the increased control and involvement in their child's education. Parents can actively shape their academic journey by choosing the best educational environment for their children. Whether selecting a school with a specific educational philosophy, a robust extracurricular program, or a supportive community, school choice allows parents to have a say in their child's educational experience.

Personalized education

Every child has unique strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. School choice empowers parents to find an educational setting that aligns with their child's individual needs. Whether it's a charter school with a specialized program, a private school with small class sizes, or a homeschooling curriculum customized to their child's interests, school choice allows for a more personalized learning experience.

Access to specialized programs and resources

School choice allows students to access specialized programs and resources that may not be available in traditional public schools. For example, homeschooling allows parents to choose from a wide range of homeschool styles and curriculum options, including online courses, co-ops, and extracurricular activities within the community.

Increased academic opportunities

School choice can provide students with increased academic opportunities that may not be available in their assigned neighborhood school. Charter schools often offer specialized programs or advanced courses that challenge and engage students academically. Private schools may have a rigorous curriculum and higher academic expectations, pushing students to excel.

Homeschooling allows students to learn at their own pace and explore subjects more deeply. It provides the flexibility to tailor the curriculum to their interests and strengths, fostering a love for learning and intellectual curiosity.

Individualized attention and support for your child

In many school choice settings, class sizes are smaller, allowing for more individualized attention from teachers. This personalized approach can significantly benefit students needing additional support or having unique learning styles. Teachers in charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling environments can often tailor their instruction to meet the specific needs of each student.

Common misconceptions about school choice

Now that we've explored the benefits of school choice let's address some common misconceptions that often surround this topic.

School choice only benefits wealthy families

It is a common misconception that the idea of “school choice” essentially only benefits wealthy families who can afford private school tuition or have the resources to homeschool. While it is true that private schools come with a cost, there are other school choice options available that are more accessible. Charter schools, for example, are publicly funded and do not require tuition fees. Additionally, with states passing universal school choice options, resources and scholarships are now available to help all families by alleviating financial constraints through state-sponsored ESAs and school voucher programs.

School choice harms traditional public schools

Another misconception is that school choice diverts resources and harms traditional public schools. However, research suggests that healthy competition from school choice options can actually drive improvement in traditional public schools. When families can choose alternative educational settings, it encourages schools to innovate and better meet the needs of their students.

Resources and support for parents exploring school choice options

Exploring school choice options can feel overwhelming, but resources and support are available to help parents make informed decisions. Here are a few helpful resources to get you started:

Local school district websites

Check your local school district's website for information on charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling regulations in your area. They often provide details on enrollment processes, application deadlines, and open house events.

Parent networks and support groups

Connect with other parents who have already gone through the school choice process. They can provide valuable insights, recommendations, and support as you navigate your options.

Online resources

Use online resources to gather information and read reviews about different schools or homeschooling programs. Websites like GreatSchools, EdChoice, and The National Association of Independent Schools can provide valuable information and guidance.

School visits and open houses

Take the time to visit schools or attend their open house events. This will allow you to see the facilities, meet the staff, and ask questions to better understand the school's culture and educational philosophy.

Remember, every child is unique, and what works for one family may not work for another. When exploring school choice options, it's essential to consider your child's individual needs, aspirations, and learning style.

Making an informed decision for the future of your child's education

Choosing the right educational environment for your children is a significant decision that can have a lasting impact on their academic and personal development. School choice offers parents the opportunity to select an educational setting that aligns with their child's needs, interests, and aspirations.

Whether exploring charter schools, private schools, or homeschooling, school choice empowers parents to participate in their child's learning journey more proactively. By understanding the different school choice options, weighing the advantages and disadvantages, and considering their child's unique characteristics, parents can make informed decisions that set their children up for success!

Already have an education savings account or school voucher for your child? The Beehive app is now an approved vendor under the ClassWallet marketplace for Arizona families with an Empowerment Scholarship Account and Utah’s Fits All Scholarship program.