A Strategy for Increasing Parental Involvement

Published March 1, 2001

Since research shows that experimental school choice programs increase parental involvement, a recent Cato Institute study suggests that legislators seek policies that enhance parental decision-making in the education of their children.

The adoption of mechanisms such as tax cuts and universal tuition tax credits would likely increase parental involvement and bring other important benefits to children, the report finds.

Parental involvement is one area of education policy where there is broad agreement: The more parents are involved with their children’s education, the better the children do in school.

However, the current structure of the K-12 public school system calls for little or no involvement by parents in the education of their children. In most places, government administrators make almost all of the choices: They assign children to schools based on where their parents live, and they select the textbooks, the curriculum, and other aspects of the child’s schooling.

Giving parents more say in educational decisions currently made by administrators would increase the involvement of parents, and this likely would result in increased student achievement. In fact, studies of school choice experiments show these programs produce a higher level of parental involvement than does the current system. Charter schools, vouchers, and private scholarship programs all are programs that require parents to make decisions about the education of their children, and research shows that all increase parental involvement.

The Cato study, done by educational consultant and writer Philip Vassallo, notes that school choice experiments bring many more benefits to students than simply the academic gains most studies focus on. For example, parents of children in school choice programs:

  • are more involved with their children’s academic programs;
  • participate more in school activities;
  • believe their child’s choice school is safer, better disciplined, and has better instruction than the child’s previous school;
  • are more satisfied with their children’s education in a choice program; and
  • are likely to reenroll their children in the choice program.

“The ultimate key to school reform is the parent,” says Vassallo. “Once parents assume the responsibility of advocating for and supporting their children’s education, they will become partners with educators to create the schools their children need.”

For more information . . .

Cato Policy Analysis No. 383 by Philip Vassallo, “More Than Grades: How Choice Boosts Parental Involvement and Benefits Children,” issued on October 26, 2000, is available from the Cato Institute Web site at www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-383es.html.