Research & Commentary: 92 Percent of Parents Satisfied with Florida’s Tax-Credit Scholarship Program

Published November 7, 2018

EdChoice has released a survey of parents participating in Florida’s Tax-Credit Scholarship Program (FTC), which shows the program is overwhelmingly popular. With more than 108,000 students participating in the program, and more than 870,000 children eligible for it, the Tax-Credit Scholarship Program is the largest private school choice program in the country. EdChoice’s survey, reaching more than 14,000 participating parents, is the largest survey of private school choice participants yet produced.

The survey revealed that 92 percent of parents are satisfied with the program, including 89 percent that are “completely satisfied.” Another 89 percent were satisfied with their choice school, including 72 percent completely satisfied and only 9 percent dissatisfied. More than 70 percent of parents responded their children would be attending a public school if not for FTC.  

“Florida’s tax-credit scholarship program is helping a large number of disadvantaged students gain access to an education that is a better fit for them,” the survey notes. “Students receiving tax-credit scholarships … tend to be less advantaged, less affluent, and more racially and ethnically diverse than the general K–12 population in Florida.”

Another study by Ed Choice released in October 2016  “estimates the fiscal effects” of 10 of the nation’s 21 tax-credit scholarship programs (including FTC) comprising 93 percent of all awarded scholarships. It found TCS programs have saved “state governments, state and local taxpayers, and school districts” from $1.7 billion to $3.4 billion through 2014. This comes out to $1,750 to $3,000 saved per student. The savings in the 2013–14 school year alone, the last year available for study, were $320 million to $580 million.

The EdChoice audit also found the cumulative savings of the programs studied grew every year with the expansion of the programs, with the three largest programs accounting for close to 75 percent of all savings.

FTC isn’t just fiscally beneficial to the Sunshine State, it is also providing strong academic benefits to participating students. A September 2017 Urban Institute study determined FTC has led to significant college enrollment gains for its students. The study compared 10,000 students who participated in FTC at some point in their academic careers between 2004 and 2010 with non-participating peers with similar characteristics. According to the data, FTC participation is associated with a 15 percent increase in college enrollment. Of students who participated in FTC for at least four years, the college enrollment rate was 46 percent higher than their non-FTC peers.

The satisfaction parents show with FTC is not surprising. Copious empirical research shows TCS programs, and other school choice programs, offer families improved access to high-quality schools that meet their children’s unique needs and circumstances. Additionally, these programs benefit public school students and taxpayers by increasing competition, decreasing segregation, and improving civic values and practices.

The survey concludes that “policymakers … should exercise caution when wielding the regulatory pen [and] should strive to establish a free and open environment in which private schools of all types can operate according to their mission, enabling parents to select into schools that match well with their family’s values and aspirations for their children.” Instead, policymakers in states without TCS programs should look to establish them, and those in states with TCS programs should look to significantly expand them.

The following documents provide more information about tax-credit scholarship programs and school choice.

Surveying Florida Scholarship Families: Experiences and Satisfaction with Florida’s Tax-Credit Scholarship Program
This EdChoice survey authored by Jason Bedrick and Lindsey Burke explores the preferences and experiences of parents and guardians of Florida children using the Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship Program. As the largest-ever survey of participants in a private school choice program, it represents some of the strongest evidence to date of the views and educational priorities of parents exercising private school choice.

School Choice Fallacies: Disproving Detractors’ Allegations Against Tax-Credit Scholarship Programs
This report from Martin Lueken and Michael Shaw at EdChoice examine tax codes to address claims alleged by school choice detractors, such as: Tax-credit scholarship programs lead to “profit,” “double-dipping,” “get-rich schemes,” and “tax shelters” for donors.

The Tax Credit Scholarship Audit: Do Publicly Funded Private School Choice Programs Save Money?
In this audit, EdChoice Director of Fiscal Policy and Analysis Martin Lueken updates previous work examining the fiscal effects of private school choice programs on state governments, state and local taxpayers, and school districts. Lueken’s report analyzes savings from tax credit scholarship programs, which allow individuals and businesses to reduce their state tax liability by making a private donation to a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships for children to attend private schools of their choice. This audit looks at 10 tax credit scholarship programs operating in seven states between 1997 and 2014. These 10 programs serve 93 percent of all students participating in tax credit scholarship programs nationwide.

The Effects of Statewide Private School Choice on College Enrollment and Graduation: Evidence from the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program
This study from Urban Institute scholars Matthew Chingos and Daniel Kuehn shows Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program boosted college enrollment for participating students by 15 percent, with students enrolled in the program for four or more years seeing a 46 percent hike.

Protecting Students with Child Safety Accounts
In this Heartland Policy Brief, Vicki Alger, senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and research fellow at the Independent Institute and Heartland Policy Analyst Tim Benson detail the prevalence of bullying, harassment, and assault taking place in America’s public schools and the difficulties for parents in moving their child from an unsafe school. Alger and Benson propose a Child Safety Account program, which would allow parents to immediately move their child to a safe school— private, parochial, or pub­lic— as soon as parents feel the school their child is currently attending is too dangerous for their child’s physical or emotion­al health.

A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice (Fourth Edition)
This paper by EdChoice details how a vast body of research shows educational choice programs improve academic outcomes for students and schools, saves taxpayers money, reduces segregation in schools, and improves students’ civic values. This edition brings together a total of 100 empirical studies examining these essential questions in one comprehensive report.

The Public Benefit of Private Schooling: Test Scores Rise When There Is More of It
This Policy Analysis from the Cato Institute examines the effect increased access to private schooling has had on international student test scores in 52 countries. The Cato researchers found that a 1 percentage point increase in the share of private school enrollment would lead to moderate increases in students’ math, reading, and science achievement.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this subject, visit School Reform News, The Heartland Institute’s website, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.

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