Last reviewed April 2011
This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference
Library on a topic of interest to Minnesota legislators. It is designed
to provide an introduction to the topic, directing the user to a variety
of sources, and is not intended to be exhaustive.
"School choice" refers to a number of different school alternatives such as interdistrict
or intradistrict transfers, magnet schools, postsecondary enrollment options, charter schools, alternative learning centers, and
private school choice through state funded vouchers or tax credits. Minnesotans currently have most of these options available
The concept of universal school vouchers was introduced in the United States through
an essay called "The Role of Government in Education" written by Milton Friedman in 1955. Although the article received
little attention at the time, several decades later the idea would generate much controversy and debate.
Attempts to extend school choice to private, religious schools using state funded educational
vouchers have received the most attention. Theoretically, in a voucher program, the state issues
parents a voucher in the amount of the cost of the child's education. It may be used at any school the parent chooses.
In practice, actual programs and proposals are not so simple. Variations include educational tax credits, limits
on parental income to qualify for a voucher, limits on the voucher amount, and limits on the range of schools at which vouchers might be used.
State legislatures have made numerous attempts to pass a wide variety of voucher programs. Of those that were created, most
have been challenged in court based on First Amendment issues related to the separation of church and state/establishment
of religion. A three part test has been used frequently to determine the constitutionality of school voucher laws. It was included
in Chief Justice Burger's 1971 United States Supreme Court ruling in
Lemon v. Kurtzman. It states,
"First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must
be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster an excessive government
entanglement with religion."
One of the first programs started in 1972 when Alum Rock Union Elementary School District in San Jose, California conducted a
five year public school experimental voucher demonstration program with the federal government.
The Rand Corporation published A Public School Voucher
Demonstration: The First Year at Alum Rock, Summary and Conclusions in 1974. This program
dealt solely with public schools.
In 1989 Milwaukee, Wisconsin enacted a school voucher program that allowed students to attend
private, nonsectarian schools at taxpayer expense. It began in 1990 and became the first program in the United States to
significantly subsidize private schools with public dollars. In 1995 the Wisconsin legislature expanded the
Milwaukee Parental Choice Program
to include private, religious schools. In June 1998 the Supreme Court of Wisconsin in
Jackson v. Benson
upheld the expansion of the program to include religious schools. The United States Supreme
Court declined to consider a challenge to this ruling.
Minnesota has passed various pieces of legislation enabling parents to take tax deductions for educational
expenses. These income tax deductions date as far back as
Laws of Minnesota 1955, Chapter 741.
A system of tax credits for students attending nonpublic elementary and secondary schools was enacted by the Minnesota
Laws of Minnesota 1971, Chapter 944.
Minnesota's law was implemented from 1971-1973 and shared
many similarities with a New York program that was found unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court
(Committee for Public Education v.
Nyquist) in 1973. In 1972, a Minnesota state trial court had found the Minnesota law constitutional. In 1974,
the Minnesota Supreme Court complied with the Nyquist precedent and
ruled this Minnesota tax credit unconstitutional. In 1983 the United States Supreme Court in
Mueller v. Allen
upheld the state's 1955 income tax deductions for dependents' educational expenses. For additional information on Minnesota
educational tax credits consult
Income Tax Deductions and Credits for Public and Nonpublic
Education in Minnesota.
Minnesota experienced a flurry of voucher activity in the mid to late 1990's.
Then-Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson actively supported educational voucher programs.
Nevertheless during the 1996 legislative session his proposed voucher legislation
was rejected by the committee that considered it, never reaching the
full House or Senate for a vote. In the 1997 regular legislative session various reform
proposals were introduced including "common schools of excellence" and
increased tuition tax credits. The K-12 funding bill,
House File 1684,
was passed in the regular 1997 session but vetoed by the
Governor, in part, because his proposal for increased funding
for private school expenses was excluded from the bill. During the first
special session of 1997, a new K-12 funding bill
Minnesota 1st Special Session 1997 Chapter 4-House File 1, Article 13)
was passed that included increases in education tax credits.
The current Minnesota Education Credit is in
Minnesota Statutes 290.0674.
In 2005-2006, a few bills were introduced in the Minnesota House and Senate authorizing "education
access grants" for certain low income students in the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts.
Senate File 736/
House File 697, were introduced in 2005;
House File 13/
Senate File 2 were introduced in the 2005 Special Session;
House File 3504/
Senate File 2962 were introduced in 2006. None of these bills passed.
In 2011, the Minnesota House and Senate introduced
The bills would allow tuition funding for low income students at low performing schools who transfer to nonpublic schools.
Language from these bills were amended into
HF 934, the
omnibus education finance bill, which was vetoed by Governor Mark Dayton.
This issue continues to be debated throughout the United States. The National School Boards Association created a
Voucher Programs Chart (2011) that includes basic facts on current state programs. On April 4, 2011, the United States Supreme
Court upheld Arizona's nonpublic school tuition tax credit law with their ruling in
Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn.
SIGNIFICANT BOOKS AND REPORTS:
The ABCs of School Choice.
(Links to the 2011 edition and the 2011 Mid-Year Update) Indianapolis, IN: The Foundation for Educational Choice, 2011.
Aud, Susan, and Leon Michos.
Spreading Freedom and Saving Money; the Fiscal Impact of the D.C. Voucher Program.
Washington D.C.: Cato Institute; Indianapolis, IN: The Friedman Foundation, 2006.
(LB2828.85 .D57 A93 2006)
Bezruki, Don, et al.
An Evaluation Milwaukee Parental
Choice Program. Madison, WI: State of Wisconsin, Legislative Audit
Bureau, 2000. (LB1027.9 .E93 2000)
Bolick, Clint. Voucher Wars: Waging the Legal Battle over School Choice.
Washington D.C.: Cato Institute, 2003. (KF4137 .B65 2003)
Carnoy, Martin. School
Vouchers: Examining the Evidence. Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute, 2001.
(LB2828.8 .C37 2001)
Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Vouchers. The Foundation for Educational Choice, March 2011.
Friedman, Milton. "The Role of Government in Education." Economics and the Public Interest,
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1955. p. 123-144. (Vertical File: E 12.147)
Gill, Brian P., et al.
Rhetoric Versus Reality: What We Know and What We Need
to Know About Vouchers and Charter Schools. Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2007. (LB2828.7 .R44 2001)
Hoenack, Stephen. Alternative Designs of an Educational Voucher
System in Minnesota: Summary of an Econometric Study. St. Paul:
Choice in Education Foundation, Inc., 1994. (LB2828.85 .M6 H64 1994)
Howell, William G., et al. The Education Gap: Vouchers and Urban Schools.
Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2002. (LB2828.8 .H69 2002)
Kafer, Krista. School Choice 2003: How States are Providing Greater Opportunity in Education.
Washington, D.C.: Heritage Foundation, 2003. (LB1027.9 .S355 2001)
Kava, Russ. Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Madison: State of Wisconsin, Legislative Fiscal Bureau,
2005. (LB1027.9 .M53)
Kober, Nancy. School Vouchers : What We Know and Don't Know - And How We Could Learn More:
A Report by the Center on Education Policy. Washington, DC : The Center, 2000.
(LB1027.9 .K63 2000)
The Constitutionality of Education Vouchers Under State and Federal
Law. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives,
House Research Department, 1998. (KFM5790 .L37 1998)
School Vouchers. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives,
House Research Department, 2002. (LB2828.8 .L37 2002)
Lerner, Jon S.
The Constitutional Case for Universal School Choice in Minnesota.
Minneapolis: Center of the American Experiment, 1993. (LB1027.9 .L47 1993)
Income Tax Deductions and Credits for Public and Nonpublic
Education in Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives,
House Research Department, 2008. (HJ4653 .C73 M36)
Moe, Terry M. Schools, Vouchers, and the American Public. Washington, D.C.:
Brookings Institution Press, 2001. (LB2828.8 .M64 2001)
Pearlstein, Mitchell B.
Gaps and Vouchers: How Achievement Gaps are Bigger
in Minnesota Than Virtually Anyplace Else and Why Vouchers are Essential to Reducing Them.
Minneapolis: Center of the American Experiment, 2007.
Research Papers and Executive Summaries.
(Access to the executive summaries and reports related to a variety of school voucher program evaluations.
Provided by the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University.)
School Vouchers: Characteristics of
Privately Funded Programs. Washington, D.C.: The United States General Accounting Office, 2002.
School Vouchers: Publicly Funded Programs in Cleveland and Milwaukee: Report to the Honorable
Judd Gregg, U.S. Senate. Washington, D.C.: The United States General Accounting Office, 2001.
Vouchers, Tax Credits and Tax Deductions.
Denver: Education Commission of the States, 2005.
(Vertical File: E 12.147) (This report includes a synopsis of school choice legislation enacted
in the United States.)
Walberg, Herbert J. School Choice: The Findings. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, c2007. (LB1027.9 .W34 2007)
Warren, John Robert. Graduation
Rates for Choice and Public School Students in Milwaukee. Wisconsin: School Choice Wisconsin,
SIGNIFICANT ARTICLES AND JOURNALS:
Barrow, Lisa, and Cecilia Elena Rouse. "School Vouchers: Recent Findings and Unanswered Questions."
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago: Economic Perspectives, Third Quarter, 2008, p. 2-16.
(Vertical File: E 12.147)
Cowen, Joshua M. "School Choice as a Latent Variable: Estimating the Complier Average Causal Effect of
Vouchers in Charlotte." Policy Studies Journal, May 2008, p. 301-315.
d'Entremont, Chad, and Luis Huerta. "Irreconcilable Differences? Education
Vouchers and the Suburban Response." Educational Policy,
January and March 2007, p. 40-72. (Vertical File: E 12.147)
"Freedom from Racial Barriers: the Empirical Evidence on Vouchers and Segregation."
School Choice Issues in Depth, October 2006, Entire Issue. (Vertical File: E 12.147)
Forster, Greg. "Using School Choice: Analyzing How Parents Access Educational Freedom."
School Choice Issues in Depth, October 2005, Entire Issue. (Vertical File: E 12.147)
Harris, Douglas, Carolyn Herrington, and Amy Albee. "The Future of Vouchers: Lessons from
the Adoption, Design, and Court Challenges to Florida's Three Voucher Programs."
Educational Policy, January and March 2007, p. 215-244. (Vertical File: E 12.147)
"Inside Choice Schools: 15 Years of Vouchers." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,
June 11-17, 2005. (Vertical File: E 12.147)
(A seven day series of articles related to the Milwaukee school voucher program.)
Jost, Kenneth. "School Vouchers Showdown." CQ Researcher, February 15, 2002.
(Vertical File: E 12.147)
Maas, Ericca. "A Fiscal Analysis of Proposed Education Access Grants in Minneapolis."
School Choice Issues in the States, July 2005, Entire Issue. (Vertical File: E 12.147)
McCarthy, Martha. "Determining the Legality of School Vouchers: Are State Courts the New Venue?"
Journal of Education Finance, Winter 2007, p. 352-372. (Vertical File: E 12.147)
Salisbury, David F.
"What Does a Voucher Buy? A Closer Look at the Cost of Private Schools."
Policy Analysis (Cato Institute), August 28, 2003, Entire Issue. (Vertical File: E 12.147)
"School Vouchers." St. Paul: Pioneer Press, 1996. (LB2828.85 .M6
P56 1996) (A series of articles on educational vouchers that appeared
in the Pioneer Press newspaper.)
Sutton, Lenford C. and Richard A. King. "School Vouchers in a Climate of Political Change." Journal of Education Finance, Winter 2011, p244-267.
A number of journals follow the issue of educational vouchers and
school choice on a regular basis:
- Education Week
- Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
- Phi Delta Kappan
- School Reform News
SIGNIFICANT INTERNET RESOURCES:
Links to the World, Education (K-12), Choice and Vouchers - Websites compiled by the MN Legislative Library.
Publicly Funded School Voucher Programs - National Conference of State Legislatures' (NCSL) information on the topic.
School Choice - Publications and information from the Foundation for Educational Choice - proponents of school vouchers.
- From the Heritage Foundation, a research and educational institution whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies.
Choice in Minnesota - Information on Minnesota school options from the Minnesota Department of Education.
Voucher Strategy Center - Resources from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) -
opponents of school vouchers. The Website includes a
State Voucher Programs Chart (2011).
Vouchers - Information on the topic from the
Education Commission of the States (ECS).
ADDITIONAL LIBRARY RESOURCES:
For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and
the Vertical File:
E 12.147 (Education-Vouchers).
For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use these
Library catalog searches: