Numerous states provided millions of students more educational choice, but not Minnesota

Millions of students across 18 states became eligible for access to new and expanded educational choice options during 2021. Unfortunately, Minnesota students were denied a similar opportunity when the DFL-controlled House and Gov. Tim Walz failed to support Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) this past legislative session, which would have given students in low-performing public school districts access to a different school and a variety of other educational services.

Within the states that provided education opportunities to more students, seven states enacted new educational choice programs and 11 more expanded 21 existing programs, reinforcing 2021 as a “breakthrough year” for school choice, writes Education Next. The choice initiatives focused mainly on tax-credit scholarships and state-funded ESAs.

As a result of the legislation enacted so far in 2021, at least 3.6 million additional students are eligible to participate in the new educational choice programs in seven states and about 878,300 additional students are eligible to participate in the expanded choice programs in 14 states. The maximum participation of the new and expanded programs grew by a combined 1.6 million. In other words, if there is a full take up of the expanded maximum participation, the number of students participating in a private K–12 educational choice program could nearly quadruple. 

Nevertheless, these expansions and additions account for less than four percent of America’s nearly 60 million K-12 students, Education Next continues, confirming the work still to be done so that every child, in every family, and every community can access effective education options that work best for them.

From shut classrooms to partisan politics, families have actively pursued — and are continuing to do so — alternative learning environments to their neighborhood public school. How long the momentum will continue remains to be seen, but in the meantime more students from all backgrounds are being given an equal opportunity to succeed. It’s time for Minnesota to catch up.

You can find a summary of the legislation passed in each of the states that prioritized students over systems this year here. (Our neighbors Iowa and South Dakota both expanded their states’ tax-credit scholarship policies.)

Examples of New/Expanded Educational Choice Programs in the States

Source: Education Next