Repor⁠t⁠ f⁠i⁠nds Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, and New Hampsh⁠i⁠re score h⁠i⁠ghes⁠t⁠ for mos⁠t⁠ access⁠i⁠ble publ⁠i⁠c educa⁠t⁠⁠i⁠on 

August 28, 2023

August 28, 2023

What if every kid was empowered with access to the entire institution of public education, not just based on their enrollment status or address? What if public education was truly public? 

Per a new report from yes. every kid., only 24 states explicitly guarantee nonpublic students to access classes and/or clubs offered by their public schools, while just 15 states require school districts to participate. Very few trust families to find the ideal education for their kid outside of their local district.  

yes. every kid. examined each state’s statute for a policy that empowers kids to enroll in public schools on a course-by-course basis and scored each state on a scale of 1 to 12.

The twelve criteria scored for each state’s education laws broke down into three basic categories: whether the statute protected the rights of families and students, if various groups of non-district students could access programs offered by public schools and if any limits to that access exist today. States received one point per each question for which the answer was “yes.” Idaho scored the highest, followed by Iowa, Kansas, and New Hampshire in second place. 


  1. Is there an explicit public education access statute?  
  2. Does statute require districts to offer public schools access?  
  3. Does the state grant families the right to enroll in public schools?  


  1. Do nonpublic students have access to public courses?  
  2. Do nonpublic students have access to public extracurriculars?  
  3. Do home school students have access to public courses?  
  4. Do home school students have access to public extracurriculars?  
  5. Do public schools have access to other public schools’ services?  


  1. Can nonresiding students participate in the current policy?  
  2. Are there no limitations on the number of courses or time to be accessed in the current policy?  
  3. Are participating students funded proportionately?  
  4. Is there low district discretion around public education access for families? 

yes. every kid. also identified five major categories that define successful Public Education Your Way policies. State policymakers should use these categories as a guide when expanding family-led decision-making in education.  

Successful Public Education Your Way policies…  

  • Universally apply to all students, whether enrolled in the public system or not  
  • Are explicitly defined in state statute  
  • Grant students access to all courses and activities offered at a public school 
  • Require school districts to participate 
  • Make families the decision-makers, instead of school systems 

Looking at the top-scoring states in the report can help lawmakers and parents better understand how well their state empowers families to access education on their terms. 

Idaho is leading the nation in accessible public schools.  

The Gem State fulfilled every measurement of truly flexible public education, scoring 12 out of 12. All Idaho kids, including nonpublic and homeschool students, have access to extracurricular activities and courses, empowering families to customize education that works best for them. Any kid can access any public school program they find valuable, without barriers.

Iowa, Kansas, and New Hampshire round out the top four states for most accessible public education. Each scored 10 out of 12. Importantly, families in each of these three states empower every kid to access public school courses and extracurriculars, though their public district schools do not offer access to students from other district schools.  

Iowa funds nonpublic and homeschool students who enroll in a public school part-time at a flat rate, instead of a proportional rate. This can lead to mismatches in cost-sharing for local districts who send or receive a large portion of kids from families making use of its Education Your Way policy. 

Local school districts in Kansas have a high level of discretion on whether to admit outside students into their schools’ programs, leading to an inconsistent patchwork of access for different kids across the state. 

A “Live Free or Die” spirit generally guides New Hampshire state and local policy toward family-based decision-making in education, especially compared to its regional neighbors. Yet, kids cannot reach across local boundaries to access programs in adjacent communities, which also limits the options of current publicly enrolled students. This would be like only allowing kids to use the public library or public park closest to their home address.  

Five states met 9 of the 12 criteria — Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, Utah and Washington.  

While certain states are doing better than others, policymakers in every state should begin to implement this critical principle: All students should be empowered to attend public schools on a flexible basis. 

Read more on solutions for Public Education Your Way from yes. every kid.