2015 School Choice Series: New England

Noodle’s 2015 series provides a state-by-state overview of school choice options. In this article, you'll find descriptions of the available options in each of the New England states, relevant state and regional news items and debates, and resources for further research.

Whether you’re an advocate or a critic of school choice, it only directly affects you if it’s an option where you live.

Noodle has put together a state-by-state overview of school choice options in 2015. You can find descriptions of the available options, relevant state and regional news items and debates, and resources for further research. This article focuses on the New England states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. You can also follow this link to learn more about what school choice is.

School Choice in Connecticut

Connecticut uses an "open choice" system, meaning that students in urban areas can attend suburban schools. The system works in reverse, as well; suburban students may also enroll in urban schools. Your choices in Connecticut include magnets and charters, in addition to vocation-themed high schools. Enrollments are handled through lotteries when space is an issue.

The state participates in voucher and tax credit programs, but it does not allow online schools.

A main impetus for the state’s open choice was integrating Hartford schools to improve educational opportunities for minority students. Recently, the state has confronted myriad economic issues regarding the funding of its expansion of magnet school options.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in Maine

Maine has two school choice programs: "tuitioning" and vouchers. Tuitioning, which dates back to 1873, is a practice by which towns without school districts pay tuition to nearby towns that do have schools so that the district-less students may attend schools in neighboring communities. The practice is considered akin to that of voucher systems. In some cases, parents have a choice of schools; and in others, all of a town's students are sent to one school.

The state allows for limited options in online education and limited open enrollment between public schools in the same district. Many students in Maine can choose their high schools, but the options can be daunting.

Recent state laws mandate that if a child transfers between school districts, administrative approval is required. Parents now have agency, however. They can appeal the decision, and superintendents need to provide reasons why the transfer isn't in the child's best interests. Advocates feel this law is a victory for school choice in Maine.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in Massachusetts

Massachusetts offers public schools, themed magnet schools, private schools (for which parents pay tuition), homeschooling, and an online academy. The primary school choice here is open enrollment, both inside and outside of a student’s district, depending on the location. The Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld the Blaine constitutional amendment forbidding government funding for schools with any religious affiliation, so private schools are not a part of the state's choice system.

A 1991 law allows parents to send their children to schools outside of their own districts. In the Boston district, parents can choose from schools within the city, and choosing a high school there is competitive and intense. Look here for a comprehensive overview of school choice throughout the state.

Parents are responsible for transportation if they choose a school outside of their home district.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in New Hampshire

New Hampshire school choice options include private schools (through tax-credit scholarships), a public online school, and intradistrict and interdistrict open enrollments. The state provides tax credits to businesses that fund education scholarships — and these can be used at private parochial schools.

A state Supreme Court ruling in August 2014 found that there was no constitutional violation if tax credit monies were used to fund private religious schools in New Hampshire. Advocates were vocal on both sides of the issue.

Supporters suggested that these scholarships help, rather than hinder, students from low- and middle-income families. The average amount of these scholarships was just above $1,200 a year). Opponents expressed concern that the decision would further harm New Hampshire's public schools by diverting resources that they would have received to private institutions.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in Rhode Island

Rhode Island school choice includes interdistrict open enrollment, which affords students the possibility of enrolling at a school outside of their district. There is not an option for online education. Charter schools are limited, with a dozen and a half public charter schools currently open. Recently, more than 11,000 students applied for just 1,300 charter-school slots. This situation has prompted school choice advocates to call for the growth of the state's charter school marketplace, a demand articulated in a recent letter to Rhode Island’s Westerly Sun newspaper. A spirited debate has arisen over whether the state should increase the number of new charter schools as well as the quantity of available seats at existing charter schools.

The state allows for tax credit scholarships and vouchers to support private school funding.

Resources for Further Research

School Choice in Vermont

Vermont does not permit online schools, and state law forbids voucher programs for private parochial schools due to separation of church and state issues. The state does permit "town tuitions," in which one community will pay tuition to another that schools its children. This law only exists in towns without a school for particular grade levels. Schools are not required to provide transportation to students.

A recent law allows students to choose from the dozens of available public high schools in the state. The law is worrisome to some administrators because funding may not necessarily accompany the students from the districts in which they live to those in which they attend school. In some cases, enrollments are very limited, with schools admitting just one or two students per year.

Resources for Further Research

Noodle pros ad Find Noodle Tutors
Article Topics: