Fast Facts: Education Freedom Scholarships

“All students should have the freedom to pursue an education that develops their talents, unleashes their unique potential, and prepares them for a successful life.”

Secretary Betsy DeVos

A Historic Investment in America’s Students

  • Education Freedom Scholarships will provide for a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-based scholarship programs.
  • This proposal would empower students and families to choose the best educational setting for them – regardless of where they live, how much they make, and how they learn.
  • Families receive and control the use of scholarships for their child’s elementary and secondary education, which may include career and technical education, apprenticeships, and dual and concurrent enrollment.
  • Privately funded scholarships improve the educational experiences of students across the country, without taking a single dollar away from public schools and the students who attend them.
  • Individual and business taxpayers nationwide contribute to student scholarships through state- identified Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). Such contributions are eligible to receive a non-refundable, dollar-for-dollar federal tax credit, but no contributor will be allowed a total tax benefit greater than the amount of their contribution.

A Locally-Driven and Customizable Approach

  • This proposal gives those closest to students the freedom to decide what’s best for them. No family is forced to accept a scholarship, no taxpayer is forced to contribute, no organization is forced to participate, and no state is forced to participate.
  • Each participating state will determine how it will structure its program, including eligible students, education providers, and education expenses.
  • Some of the ways states can expand students’ access to educational opportunities include:
    • Advanced, remedial, and elective courses;
    • Apprenticeships and industry certifications;
    • Concurrent and dual enrollment;
    • Private and home education;
    • Special education services and therapies;
    • Transportation to education providers outside of a family’s zoned school;
    • Tutoring, especially for students in low‐performing schools; and
    • Summer and afterschool education programs.
  • This is not a new federal program. The proposal establishes a federal tax credit to support state-designed and controlled programs.

How EFS Can Expand Public Education Options

Breaking down barriers between zip code and opportunity by expanding access to public education options.

Problem

  • Most students in America are limited to attending a public school that is assigned to them. Although many families choose their public school by deciding where to live, only 14 percent of students are enrolled in a public school outside of their zoned school according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
  • The most vulnerable students in America do not have the freedom to pursue education opportunities in the same ways the rich, powerful, and connected families always have.

Solution

  • The Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS) proposal creates a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-based scholarship programs, empowering elementary and secondary students and families to choose the right education options for them – regardless of where they live, how much they make, and how they learn.

How EFS Can Expand Public Education Options

  • States can design their programs to work hand-in-hand with existing public education options to enhance individual students’ education experiences, not replace them.
  • The scholarships can be focused on expanding access to education programs and services for public school students enrolled in:
    • District public schools, perhaps focusing on low-performing schools, or those in specific regions, such as urban or rural areas;
    • Out-of-district public schools;
    • Magnet schools;
    • Public virtual schools; and
    • Public charter schools.
  • The scholarships could cover allowable education expenses as defined by States, including, but not limited to:
    • Advanced courses, like Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate;
    • Elective courses, like art, music, or world languages;
    • Credit recovery or other remedial courses;
    • Tutoring services;
    • Special education services and therapies not required by a student’s Individualized Education Program;
    • Purchasing educational technology, including learning software or hardware.
    • Transportation to education providers outside of a family’s zoned school;
    • Open or dual enrollment allowing high school students to earn college credit; and
    • Fees for summer education programs and specialized after-school education programs.

How EFS Can Expand Career Training Options

Expanding career training options for students and closing the skills gap for employers.

Problem

  • The United States is in the midst of a profound workforce skills gap—about 7 million jobs remain unfilled today. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, in 2018 alone, the U.S. workforce required at least 4.7 million new workers with postsecondary certificates.
  • Too many students lack experiences that allow for career exploration, adult mentorship, and sound advice on postsecondary options that match their career interests and prepare them for jobs that will close the skills gap.

Solution

  • The Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS) proposal creates a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-based scholarship programs, empowering students to pursue their career goals.
  • State leaders can take a bold step toward the creation of an enhanced talent development pipeline by aligning state-based scholarship programs to the vision and strategies in state workforce development plans, including their Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) State Plans.

How EFS Can Expand Career Training Options

  • States can design their programs to provide more students with access to authentic career-based experiences that their family’s zoned school might not offer.
  • The scholarships can be targeted to students interested in:
    • Concurrent or dual enrollment in high-demand career pathways, or to help ease a student’s transition from secondary to postsecondary institutions;
    • Apprenticeship pathways, including pre-apprenticeships, industry-recognized 
apprenticeships, and registered apprenticeships; and
    • Industry certifications.
  • The scholarships can cover allowable education expenses including, but not limited to:
    • Tuition for dual or joint enrollment courses online or in-person at local community colleges or short-term job training programs like a coding boot camp or accelerated training program;
    • Books and fees required by a technical program or community college of choice;
    • Industry-based exams and certification fees necessary for an in-demand occupation;
    • Transportation to an apprenticeship training center or worksite, magnet school, career and 
technical education academy, or public or private school of a family’s choice; and
    • Tools, supplies, and personal protective equipment required for in-person or online career 
and technical education programs such as steel-toed boots, welding gloves, a computer, or scrubs.

How EFS Can Expand Special Education Options

Expanding access to individualized learning opportunities for children with disabilities.

Problem

  • Children and students with disabilities deserve to benefit from both high expectations and appropriate supports, so that they are challenged to reach their full potential.
  • Too often though, the individualized services and learning opportunities they need can be limited by existing programs and practices that prioritize the needs of the “system” over the needs of the child.
  • The pursuit of individualized learning environments and programs often puts financial pressure on families, which may be acutely felt by the families of children with disabilities.

Solution

  • The Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS) proposal creates a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-based scholarship programs.
  • This is a vital opportunity states can seize to empower children with disabilities and their families to access individualized learning opportunities, while relieving some of the financial pressure many families experience.

How EFS Can Expand Special Education Options

  • States can design their programs to complement and expand existing special education programs and services, and scholarships can be focused on expanding access for children with disabilities to individualized supports, services, instruction, interventions, and therapies.
  • The scholarships could cover allowable education expenses including, but not limited to:
    • Educational therapies and services from a licensed or accredited practitioner or provider, including behavior therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, recreational therapy, social group therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy, and more;
    • Tuition and fees at a private school of a family’s choice;
    • Homeschool education expenses, including specialized curriculum and educational and 
therapeutic materials;
    • Programs and services that support transition to postsecondary education or employment;
    • Programs and services that support the early childhood needs of children with disabilities, 
including Developmental Delay;
    • Assistive technology, including adaptive and rehabilitative devices such as prosthetics, 
communication boards, power lifts, refreshable Braille displays, assistive listening devices, 
and more;
    • Cost of a paraprofessional or educational aide; and
    • Educational and psychological evaluations to identify a child’s unique strengths, 
interests, and needs.