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Survey of Tax Credit Scholarship Parents Gives Insights into School Choices

My eyes gleamed when I saw this new Friedman Foundation report, More Than Scores: An Analysis of Why and How Parents Choose Private Schools. Why? Not only because it used a survey of 754 parents in the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, but also because it asked really helpful questions to understand why parents make the choices they do.

GOAL is a scholarship tax credit program, adopted by Georgia in 2008. Its features aren’t too much different than the ones my Education Policy Center friends recommend in A Scholarship Tax Credit Program for Colorado. You know, the type of program that could help thousands of Colorado Kids Win.

Such a program would encourage more donations to nonprofit scholarship organizations that provide K-12 private tuition assistance to students from low- and middle-income families. One idea you see in some choice programs is that private schools should be required to share certain information with parents. But the Friedman report by Benjamin Scafidi and Jim Kelly brings out an important survey finding:

…79.2 percent of parents indicated that, if a private school declined to provide them “with some of your desired information,” that “would impact” their decision about where to send their children to school (emphasis added). An additional 20 percent of parents said it “might impact my decision” (emphasis added). Only 0.8 percent (six out of 754 parents) of parents indicated that, if a private school declined to provide them with some of the information they desired, it would not impact their school choice.

In other words, participating choice schools would have an incentive to do right by parents without the heavy hand of a government mandate. Definitely something to consider. Also interesting from the survey were the reasons (from a long list) that showed up on the parents’ “Top 5″ for taking a scholarship and pursuing a different educational option:

  1. Better student discipline: 50.9%
  2. Better learning environment: 50.8%
  3. Smaller class sizes: 48.9%
  4. Improved student safety: 46.8%
  5. More individual attention for my child: 39.3%
  6. Better education: 36.9%
  7. Better preparation for college: 31.7%

As the title of the paper underscores, “higher standardized test scores” doesn’t show up until #14. It only made the top 5 list for about 10% of surveyed parents. There’s a lot of food for thought I need to let digest.

One last tidbit before I tell you just to read the report yourself — part of the survey asked what you would do “to get desired information about private schools.” Fifth from the top was “Review information available on the Internet.” I’m sure if Colorado had a scholarship tax credit program like Georgia, the fabulous School Choice for Kids site still would provide a wealth of information about private schools and scholarship organizations.

Nicely done, huh?