3 Things Parents Should Know as Kids Head Back to School

As the fall season kicks off, parents across the country are searching for new notebooks, bigger backpacks, and maybe even better schools for their children at the start of the new academic year.

Schools serve as crucial environments for teaching, discourse, and the imparting of values, and they are the arenas—second only to the home—that will shape the minds of children and, ultimately, the future of our nation.

As parents grapple with big decisions regarding their children’s education, there are a few things to remember:

EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS: So, 2023 was the “year of education freedom.” What does that mean for parents?

There are more options for families regarding K-12 education than ever before. In 2023, seven states adopted new education choice policies, while eight have expanded their existing policies. Specifically, four states—Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Utah—have introduced new universal choice policies, and two states—Florida and Ohio—have broadened their existing policies to encompass all students.

This addition brings the total count of states with universal choice policies to eight, alongside Arizona and West Virginia.

A majority of these newly established choice policies have taken the form of education savings accounts (ESAs) or similar account-style options.

In the case of ESAs, the state allocates a portion of a child’s education funding, as determined by the state K-12 formula or statute, into a private account. Parents can then utilize those funds to acquire education-related products and services for their children, including private school tuition.

ESAs are the “most inclusive learning option” because they “empower parents to meet their child’s unique education needs,” by enabling them to customize their child’s learning.

For example, a family could choose to use its ESA to purchase textbooks and curricula, to enroll their child in an online course, and to hire a private tutor for a completely tailored education experience. Or they might use their ESA to pay tuition to enroll full time in a private school, rolling over any unused funds they have year-to-year.

The flexibility of ESAs has made them among the most attractive options for states adopting education choice policies.

For parents looking for more information about the different education options available in their state, visit the School Choice Week website and select the “School Choice State Guide.”

In the guide, there’s information about the available charter school, magnet school, private school and homeschooling options, and it includes instructions on how to apply for new education choice options in each state, such as education savings accounts, tax-credit scholarships, voucher programs, and more.

ATTEND SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS: For parents whose children are heading back to their local district schools, consider attending local school board meetings and listening attentively to what’s happening in the district.

If something seems peculiar, don’t be afraid to ask the school board members and superintendent for more information. Be polite, but as parents, you are 100% within your bounds to inquire about what’s happening.

The representatives on school boards should be accountable to parents. While board members may be more familiar with the operating procedures and financials of the district, remember that you are the expert in the needs of your own child.

GET INVOLVED: If you discover a lack of transparency within your local school district, or for any reason feel called to be more involved in your school community, consider playing a more active role. Join or start a parents’ group or run for school board.

The Heritage Foundation has launched a training program for new or prospective school board members to obtain the tools, knowledge, and resources needed to succeed on the board.

Parents are the sleeping giants who will mend our broken education system,” says Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

Families now have more opportunities than ever to exercise education freedom and to select the best learning environment that aligns with their values and works best for their kids.

There’s no better way to ring in the new school year.

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