2023 has undeniably been a banner year for educational freedom.

Today, nine states have universal or near-universal school choice. In Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Utah and West Virginia, these sweeping policy changes have taken the shape of education savings accounts.

Indiana, Ohio and Oklahoma have passed private school voucher programs, which will reach nearly all children in the coming years.

North Carolina is poised to be the 10th state to join the ranks once Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s temporary state of emergency ends.

But education freedom is also about allowing parents to select the public school that will best serve their children. Yet that is prohibited in the majority of communities in this country.

Families with children in public schools are restricted to a specifically assigned school based on home address — even if another public school is a better fit.

Removing that artificial barrier in order that there are “no more lines” in public education should be a priority.

In no other industry than K-12 public education are students largely restricted to a ZIP code-assigned government service — not public parks, pools, libraries or hospitals.

As a result of this mandated assignment, important quality controls such as accountability for student learning and curriculum transparency do not exist. Students are at the mercy of whatever is offered at their residentially assigned school, regardless of whether it is a good fit for each individual child.

And in some places, parents have even been jailed for enrolling their children in a public school outside of their neighborhood.

Families — as taxpayers funding public education — are understandably furious about this restriction. For families living in one of the 41 states where widespread school choice hasn’t become a reality and can’t afford private school tuition or aren’t able to home-school their child, there is often no option other than the assigned school.

It’s no wonder that, according to an EdChoice national poll, 74% of parents and 70% of the public support policies allowing parents options in the public system.

Within the public system, a practical policy solution is to allow open enrollment, where students can attend any public school regardless of home address or income level necessary to afford tuition or other educational expenses. Allowing the open use of taxpayer-funded government services should not be a revolutionary concept. Preschool and higher education funding operate this way.

It’s time K-12 education did too.

There are two major types of open enrollment in public schools: cross-district and within-district. These are referred to as inter- and intra-district. According to research from the Reason Foundation, only five states — Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida and Utah — have both mandated cross- and within-district open enrollment. Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin have only mandated cross-district open enrollment, while Georgia and Tennessee have only mandated within-district open enrollment.

When cross-district open enrollment policies are in place, families select school districts better aligned with their child’s needs. When within-district open enrollment policies are in place, parents can select schools that are a better fit for their children for a variety of reasons, including academic offerings, social dynamics or extracurricular programs.

Clearly, work must be done to expand educational options for students in the public system. Several states proposed new or expanded open enrollment policies during the 2023 legislative session, but more progress is warranted so that families — not artificial lines — determine where their children attend school.

While some policymakers continue championing universal educational freedom in their states, they should also get behind policies that advance freedom for families to access any public school. Unrestricted public school access is a critical component of allowing all families to select the educational avenues that will best serve their child.

All states with universal or near-universal school choice should require unrestricted cross- and within-district public school open enrollment policies. And in states where elected lawmakers are hostile to private school vouchers and education savings accounts due to deeply held ties with the powerful teachers unions, open enrollment in public schools should be strategically advanced by showing these groups that it can be a key avenue to encouraging families to remain in the public education system.