School Choice

The greatest degree of local control remains a parent's ability to choose one school over another. Choice basically means options, and in the state of Oklahoma we have five options that allow families to attend their school of choice. They include charter schools, virtual charter schools, homeschools, and scholarship opportunities to attend private schools.
  • What is School Choice?
    School choice refers to the ability of a parent to put their child in the best available school for that child, regardless of that family’s zip code or income. The state of Oklahoma has determined that every child in the state should be educated, and that taxpayer dollars will be spent for this purpose. However, a parent should not be restricted to sending their child only to the local neighborhood school if that school is not the best fit for that child. Parents should be allowed to utilize at least a portion of the tax dollars allocated for their child’s education to explore the available options, whether those options are public, charter, private or otherwise.
  • What are ESAs?
    Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs, allow a portion of the tax dollars allocated for a child’s education to follow that child out of the public school system and be utilized by a parent for tuition, tutoring, textbooks, music lessons, school uniforms, school supplies and other educational needs. Several states offer ESAs to provide parents with more educational options for their children.
  • What are Vouchers?
    Vouchers allow some of the tax dollars designated for a child’s education to be used by a parent to pay for tuition at a private school for that child. Vouchers are similar to ESAs, though an ESA typically gives a parent more flexibility than a voucher, in terms of the variety of educational needs the parent can use the funds for. Oklahoma offers a voucher program for certain students via the Lindsey Nicole Henry (LNH) scholarship program (see below for more info).
  • What are School Choice Tax Credits?
    Tax credits can be utilized for school choice in multiple ways. Several states, including Oklahoma, offer limited tax credits for donations to qualifying nonprofit groups that provide private school tuition scholarships for students from low- and middle-income families (see below for more info). A few states also offer direct tax credits to qualifying families, to be used for private school tuition or other educational needs.
  • What are Charter Schools?
    Charter schools are public schools that are typically subject to fewer restrictions than traditional public schools, but that often receive less funding than traditional public schools and face different forms of accountability. In Oklahoma, a charter school can be sponsored by a public school district, a CareerTech, a college or university, a Native American tribe, or the State Board of Education. Typically, a charter school has more flexibility to incorporate innovative, results-oriented approaches to educating students.
  • How can Oklahoma Parents Exercise School Choice for their Children?
    Parents in Oklahoma can exercise school choice for their children in multiple ways. First, in Oklahoma, there are over 38,000 students currently enrolled in public charter schools. Over two dozen Oklahoma public charter schools serve students in all 77 counties.

    Second, since 2010, Oklahoma's Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship program has provided thousands of students—students with disabilities or special needs, as well as students in Oklahoma’s foster care system or adopted out of foster care—with scholarships to attend private schools.

    Third, since 2013, Oklahoma's Equal Opportunity scholarship program has provided tuition scholarships to thousands of students from low- and middle-income families throughout the state. The program allows taxpayers to receive a tax credit when they donate to certain nonprofits to provide scholarships under the program's guidelines.
  • Does School Choice Financially Harm Public Schools?
    School choice does not financially harm public schools. Education funding is meant for educating children, not for a particular institution. Charter schools are public schools. And when a parent utilizes a Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship or an Equal Opportunity scholarship to move their child from a public school to a non-public school, a portion of the funding for their child stays behind in the local public school district. This means public schools are left with more funding per student.
  • Will School Choice Destroy Public Schools?
    School choice will not destroy public schools. Numerous research studies have found that school choice programs tend to result in improved outcomes in public schools, especially public schools located near choice schools. Funding for students is allocated per pupil, not per school. School choice programs allow education funds to follow a student to the school of their parents' choosing, which increases the likelihood that those funds will be expended as effectively as possible for that specific student.
  • Is it Appropriate for Public Funds to Go to Private Schools?
    These "public funds" are taxpayer dollars, paid in by hardworking Oklahomans in order to fund quality education for students, among other priorities. Oklahoma government sends taxpayer funds to many private entities in order to provide better services to the public—including funds for road and bridge construction and repair, funds for scholarships for qualifying students at private colleges and universities, funds for medical care for low-income Oklahomans, funds for faith-based PreK programs, and more.
  • How Does School Choice Benefit Students in Rural Areas?
    At present, there are students in all 77 counties in Oklahoma being served by authorized charter schools—some in brick-and-mortar locations, others virtually. There are also private schools in rural Oklahoma that are utilizing the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship and the Equal Opportunity scholarship to serve students. Over 80 percent of Oklahoma students live within a drive of 30 minutes or less from at least one private school.
  • Will School Choice Result in Government Control of Private Schools or of Homeschooling?
    Regardless of what school choice programs Oklahoma has in place, we must always guard against those who wish for the government to take control of private schools or of homeschooling. What attracts many families to private schools or homeschooling is that those options are not part of the government structure. This independence can result in many positives, including innovation, specialized learning, and more one-on-one instruction.
  • What Other Legislation Might Affect School Choice in Oklahoma?
    Currently in the 2023 Oklahoma Legislative Session there is ongoing deliberation regarding a range of legislation that could affect School Choice in Oklahoma if passed. Currently, the House has passed a School Choice Bill which, if also passed by the Senate in its current language, would usher in a School Choice Tax Credit system for Oklahoma.



State Department of Education
2500 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4599

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Last updated on June 5, 2024