School Choice on a Tight Budget

by Michelle Giroux

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With the exclusion of a scattering of charter schools in a limited number of states, most people equate school choice for the elementary and high school grades as a luxuriant expense for those lucky few endowed with heavy pocketbooks. The majority of the population, however, rely on traditional government run schools financed by the taxes that each citizen is required to cough up. What could be a better bargain than that? Or seriously, a more accurate question is what other possible choice is there for a person on a limited income? The fact is that there are viable options for families of all income levels that want to opt out of public schools.

Individual School Scholarships: Contributing members of the Catholic Church have a long established practice of providing a substantial portion, often up to one half of the tuition at participating parochial schools. In addition, these individual schools usually have a fund for providing additional scholarships to assist families whose income fall within their guidelines. Most schools, regardless of their religious affiliation, have a fund set up for tuition assistance. As the funds are often limited, they are kept unadvertised, reserved for the families who inquire on the availability of aid. Each school has their own policies. For example, some schools allow parents flexibility with payment timetables, allowing parents to pay their portion of tuition after they have received their income tax check for instance. Some schools have a bartering system in which the parent must volunteer their time and services in exchange for tuition assistance. Although time constraints can make it difficult for parents to keep up with their end of the agreement, one additional benefit is the insight that parents are able to obtain from being on the inside. They are able to compare how the school runs in comparison to the school manual standards.

Non-Profit Scholarships: There are a variety of nonprofit organizations that provide tuition assistance. This type of scholarship typically allows for much more flexibility than an individual school scholarship in terms of school choice. Some funds are set up for schools belonging to a specific religion or type of school, while others permit the scholarship recipient to have unlimited options in school selection with allowances for public, private, religious, and even homeschools.

Contact Information: There are a number of websites that list a variety of organizations. Of course, each site is inconclusive. For example, The Children's Scholarship Fund's website at has links to a variety of local programs. However, there are many state Children's Scholarship Fund programs that are indirectly connected to the national program that remain unlisted under the site listings. For information on local programs, contact information may be found at the national Children's Scholarship Fund's website. They may to able to get you in touch with a local program. Another organization that includes scholarship programs in their web listings is the National Center For Public And Private School Foundations.

With research, determination, and ingenuity, all parents can afford to give their children the best education possible.

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