I thought that I would start with those “School Choice” options that don’t involve vouchers, just to ensure that we are all acutely aware that the term “School Choice,” does not, in fact, refer to vouchers (although they are one option.)

One non-voucher school choice option is Charter Schools. Charter schools (sometimes known as “magnet schools”) are government schools that attract students through particular programs and voluntary enrollment rather than geographic assignment. Charter schools are funded through the state, but generally operate with fewer restrictions and regulations than “regular” public schools.

Charter schools are beneficial for some, but generally only in areas with failing schools. Those of us who want our children to have a different form of education altogether – separate from government control – would not benefit from Charter schools.

Another School Choice option is Education tax credits/deductions, which provides tax relief for those parents who choose alternative education for their children, outside of the government schools. These credits/deductions may be granted for any or all costs associated with alternative education, including tuition, textbooks, transportation, and extracurricular fees. Credits are dollar-for-dollar refunds on approved expenses; deductions lower a family’s taxable income.

The state of Tennessee could offer credits, which I would whole-heartedly accept. However, because we do not have a state income tax, deductions would only be available on the Federal level, which is a bit dodgier. Credits are a good option for Tennessee; it certainly beats the big, fat, nothing parents who choose alternative education currently receive.

Universal tuition tax credits allow any taxpayer – individual or business – to contribute to the education of any student (K-12) and receive a dollar-for-dollar credit for taxes owed.

This, again, is only feasible on the Federal level, which makes me nervous, and it doesn’t really solve the problem for those parents who either want to home school or who aren’t able to find someone to pay their child’s tuition at a private school (which they could not afford on their own.)

Private scholarship programs are privately funded charitable organizations that provide money for parents to send their children to a school of their choice. The money comes from a private organization, rather than the government, and has differing qualification requirements. Some cover only a portion of tuition costs, requiring contributions from the family, and some are only available to low-income families.

These organizations are, of course, a fantastic way for parents to be able to send their children to a school of their choice without any interference from the government. These organizations, however, typically do not offer funding to parents who choose to home school, so, while helping tremendously those who would like the opportunity to send their children to private schools, still leave home-school parents out in the cold.

Of these options, I would be most likely to support credits, which, again, would provide reimbursement for education expenses for those parents not using government schools. Credits would provide for both private and home education, would be given directly to the parents (rather than to a specific school), and would be limited to the amount of tax dollars that would have been spent on the child in the government school. Credits could be implemented on a local or state level, with no help needed from the Federal government.

However, because the funds would be dispersed after-the-fact, there is the possibility that problems would arise in paying for religious education. Although the money would be given to the parents directly, proof would be needed (in the form of receipts or the like) in order to ensure the validity of the claim, and there might be those who would oppose offering credits for religious education. This would not, however, give the government the authority to interfere in that religious education, only the possibility that they may refuse to reimburse the parent.