Fam⁠i⁠ly-F⁠i⁠rs⁠t⁠ Pol⁠i⁠cy Pr⁠i⁠or⁠i⁠⁠t⁠⁠i⁠es for 2024 & Beyond

January 10, 2024

January 10, 2024

Today, a family searching for an educational experience outside of their government-assigned school will find that, in many states and localities, they do not even hold the power to make that decision. Politicians, aided by staff of government agencies and school districts, have already decided for them.

A family knows their kids better than state officials who have never met them. This statement seems obvious, yet education today is structured in the opposite direction.

By putting family empowerment first in policy design, state lawmakers can help remove barriers for Americans to craft a future where education reflects the unique needs of every kid. It is popular as well.

A poll from yes. every kid. foundation. and YouGov found that majorities of Americans believe injecting more freedom and flexibility into education would strengthen it. Levels of support for education freedom were even higher for parents with children under 18.

Envisioning education which puts families first comes down to three core pillars, a foundation upon which yes. every kid. builds our policy priorities:

No More Lines

Public schools should be like public pools, parks, or hospitals. They should not turn kids away based on factors outside of a family’s control. This statement is also broadly popular with the American public. The above-mentioned poll also found that 84% of Americans believe that every kid should be empowered to attend any public school in their state that best fits their needs.

While all 50 states still use outdated school boundary zones, eight states have begun to empower families to access their preferred public school in the state. Even though several other states have some sort of open enrollment program, school districts in those states get to decide whether families living within their lines may participate at all.

State lawmakers have a special opportunity to correct this injustice and mismatch between their constituents’ desires and reality.

Since public schools turn kids away based on address, some families claim residence in a neighboring district to enroll in a setting better suited to their kids’ needs, even as they face dire consequences for doing so. Staggeringly, 24 states hold parents criminally liable for this practice, sometimes referred to as “address sharing.”

Instead of punishing families who are trying to do the best for their kids, states should open their public schools to every kid. At the very least, they should decriminalize the act of enrolling one’s child in a public school.

No More Lines policies empower every kid to attend the public school that works for their unique needs, regardless of race, ability, income, or ZIP code.

Education Your Way

Why should schools, instead of families, dictate how a child may be educated? Learning happens everywhere, depending on each child’s unique interests and talents, not merely within the four walls of a traditional classroom.

Not only should every kid have access to attend any public school, but every kid also – whether in homeschool, private school, traditional, or charter public school – should have access to the courses and activities offered by public schools in their state.

Every family should be empowered to build their kids’ learning experience among a variety of options, both inside and outside of a school setting. Students should be empowered to earn credit for learning opportunities that take place outside the classroom.

Think of post-secondary education: students are empowered to pursue knowledge on their terms, build their schedules on a course-by-course basis, and supplement with activities, clubs, and other opportunities for learning. This vision of Education Your Way can work just as well for students in elementary and secondary education.

Fund Every Kid

Even within a family, different children may require different resources for their learning and developmental needs. Parents with multiple children inherently understand this – one size simply does not fit all. Why shouldn’t those closest to a child be making decisions for them?

Today, just ten states empower every family in their borders to direct some portion of their student’s state-allocated per-pupil funding to craft an educational experience they believe works best for them. Before 2021, no state empowered every family in this way. Early reports from several of these ten states show that families are excited about having more options to meet their kids’ needs.

In Oklahoma, all families can now access a first-of-its-kind refundable tax credit for education, making it easier to find a better-fit educational option for their children.

Whether a personal tax credit, an Education Savings Account (ESA), or a microgrant, there are several types of policy mechanisms to empower families with empowering their child’s education. Fund Every Kid policies put power in families’ hands to direct how and where their children learn.

Though a particular policy solution may appear in different forms, this vision for education which reflects the uniqueness of every kid and family is key to informing the policy priorities for yes. every kid. in the coming year and beyond.