Educational Freedom

Who knows what’s best for children – their parents or government?

API believes the answer is simple and foundational: their parents.

One of the three tenets of the Alabama Policy Institute’s mission is to promote and defend families as the primary foundation to society. Therefore, School Choice initiatives that acknowledge and strengthen the role of parents in their innate responsibility to educate and raise their children are a priority for API.  Regardless of the tools involved, the ultimate goal of school choice is to give parents agency to educate each of their children as they see fit. 

The re-introduction and expansion of free-market principles have and will continue to improve the station of education in our state. Where there is competition and innovation, there is success; where there is governmental interference and control, there is stagnation. 

API believes that universal school choice is paramount to ensuring that every child in Alabama has a chance to flourish. API asserts that applying free market principles to public, private, and home education opportunities will open new avenues for success in all areas of education. 

School choice allows taxpayer funding for public education to follow each student to whatever educational services best fit their needs for each year —whether those needs are filled at a public school, private school, charter school, homeschool, through tutoring, or any other learning environment that their families choose.

Education isn’t a one size fits all approach for every child. Limiting student educational opportunities to zip codes is a limited way of thinking. Many public schools are a great fit for a lot of kids. However, school choice enables parents, rather than state government, to make the best educational decisions for each of their children.

School choice has been around for nearly 150 years. Vermont’s program has served families since 1869. In 1991, Wisconsin became the first state to create a modern school voucher program.

There are 78 programs across 33 states that fit the definition of school choice. 

Alabama is one of only 11 states that offers universal school choice to every child in the state.

The Choose Act was passed in March 2024 by the Alabama Legislature. The Act creates refundable income tax credits called education savings accounts (ESAs) available to support every K-12 student in AL. 

This program will be established and implemented by the Alabama Department of Revenue, who will create the framework and funding process for the ESAS. 

Eligible families may use ESA funds to cover tuition, fees, and other qualified expenses at approved education service providers

Beginning the 2025-2026 academic year, ESAS will be available in the following amounts

Up to $7,000 per participating student enrolled in a participating school. 

Up to $2,000 per participating student not enrolled in a participating school (students in individual or group homeschool programs or coops, nonparticipating schools, or similar programs); capped at $4,000 per family.

It is a common misconception and tactic from those who oppose school choice to accuse advocates of wanting to harm public schools. The theory is that if students are able to opt-out of public schools and take their funding with them, those who choose to stay will have less money and fall behind academically. However, that has not been the case in other states where school choice has been implemented. In fact, public schools get to keep a significant portion of money for a student they no longer have the responsibility of educating.

Research shows public school students maintain performance averages, and sometimes improve, because of the increase in competition that school choice programs bring; accountability and competition incentivize public schools to improve to meet students’ needs.

Current School Choice in Alabama

Alabama Accountability Act (AAA)

The Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) was passed in 2013 and created a refundable tax credit program for families whose child(ren) transfers from a failing public school to a non-failing public or private school.

Alabama's Education Scholarship Program

Alabama's Education Scholarship Program is a tax-credit scholarship. Alabama taxpayers have the option to donate to nonprofit scholarship-granting organizations and receive corresponding tax-credits.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are public schools that typically operate independent of traditional public school districts. In 2015, the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act created the Alabama Public Charter School Commission (APCSC). Alabama has two types of charter schools: start-up charter schools and conversion charter schools. Start-up charter schools didn’t previously exist as a non-charter public school, while conversion charter schools are existing public schools that were converted into charters.

The CHOOSE Act of 2024