Profile: EdChoice Provides Research and Training to Expand School Choice

Published March 6, 2020

EdChoice is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization driven by a shared mission to advance a K-12 education system where all families, regardless of race, origin, or income, are free to choose a learning environment—public or private, near or far, religious or secular—that works best for their children.

Formerly known as the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, EdChoice is the oldest school choice advocacy group in the nation. Founded by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman and his wife, Rose, in 1996, we champion universal educational school choice programs at the state level with original research, focused state investments, and training and outreach programs.

We believe all students, regardless of where they live or how much their families earn, should be able to access a school that meets their needs. Although that could be a charter school, a magnet school, homeschooling, or a traditional public school, EdChoice’s advocacy focuses primarily on helping more families access private schooling options.

Increasing Options

Private school choice programs tend to break down into four categories: tax credits and deductions, tax-credit scholarships, vouchers, and education savings accounts (ESAs). ESAs are our preferred mechanism because they provide the greatest flexibility to the student. ESAs can be used not just for private school tuition but also for tutoring, online learning, support services, and other approved costs.

We know from our annual Schooling in America survey there’s a huge disconnect between what families want versus what they’re getting.

For decades, families have practiced “old-fashioned” school choice: They would either buy or rent housing in a high-quality district or pay private school tuition out of pocket. Their only other option was for their children to attend a school assigned to them based on their ZIP code. Fundamentally changing the education system starts, unsurprisingly, with educating people about the system.

Training Policymakers

Today, there are many more ways for families to access different schooling types. In fact, more than 50 percent of American students attend a school other than the one to which they were geographically assigned. But we must get the word out that choice isn’t guaranteed for all—at least not yet.

That is why we host legislative training sessions each year where experts from all across the country come together to help state legislators understand how education choice policies work, how other states are implementing and regulating them, what the research says, and more. Along with inspiring speakers and networking opportunities, our experts offer customized breakdowns of key state-level education data.

We also host fact-finding trips and in-state training where we showcase schooling options for policymakers and stakeholders, and we connect local advocates with resources to navigate the media, understand the legislative landscape, and recruit new supporters.

Jennifer Wagner ([email protected]) is vice president of communications at EdChoice.