Research & Commentary: Hope Scholarships Allow All Kansas Students Access to Safe Schools

Published March 18, 2019

The Kansas House of Representatives is considering a bill that would establish Hope Scholarships, a type of child safety account (CSA) that empowers parents to remove their children from unsafe schools and place them in safer education environments.

If legislators enact Hope Scholarships, Kansas children who have been bullied in school and reported a bullying incident to a teacher, counselor, or administrator would be eligible for the program. Information about the program would be sent to parents within 15 days of a reported bullying incident involving their child. In 2018, Florida enacted a similar program, which has more than 60 participating students.

Parents could use funding from the Hope Scholarship to pay for tuition at a participating private school of their choice, or at another public school. Funds could also be used for textbooks and other school supplies, as well as for transportation to and from school.

Funding for each account will equal 88 percent of the state’s “base aid for student excellence” for children in grades one through five, 92 percent for grades six through eight, and 96 percent for high school students.

In 2017, 19.8 percent of Kansas high schoolers were bullied on school property, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 15.8 percent were cyberbullied, 5.8 percent were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property, and 5.2 percent skipped school because they felt unsafe there. Most disturbingly, 7.1 percent attempted suicide. Clearly, public schools in the Sunflower State are failing to adequately protect a significant number of their students.

Further, the most recent findings from an annual Phi Delta Kappa survey reveal more than one-third of American parents fear for their child’s safety at school. Altogether, 34 percent answered they are afraid for their children’s safety at school. This number rises to an alarming 48 percent for parents earning less than $50,000 per year. 

Research shows students at private schools are less likely than their public school peers to experience problems such as alcohol abuse, bullying, drug use, fighting, gang activity, racial tension, theft, vandalism, and weapon-based threats. There is also a strong causal link suggesting private school choice programs, such as CSAs, improve the mental health of participating students.

Copious other empirical research on school choice programs finds these programs offer families improved access to high-quality schools that meet their children’s unique needs and circumstances. Moreover, these programs improve access to schools that deliver quality education inexpensively. Additionally, these programs benefit public school students and taxpayers by increasing competition, decreasing segregation, and improving civic values and practices. 

In Kansas, the antiquated district model effectively allows only wealthy families to transfer their children from unsafe public schools to safer school environments. The freedom afforded to those families should be afforded to all families, because every Kansas child deserves to have the resources available to escape an unsafe or unhealthy school environment.

The following documents provide more information about child safety accounts and parental choice in education.

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.

The Effects of School Choice on Mental Health
This study from Corey DeAngelis at the Cato Institute and Angela K. Dills of Western Carolina University empirically examines the relationship between school choice and mental health. It finds that states adopting broad-based voucher programs and charter schools witness declines in adolescent suicides and suggests that private schooling reduces the number of times individuals are seen for mental health issues.

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, save taxpayers money, reduce segregation in schools, and improve students’ civic values. This edition brings together a total of 100 empirical studies examining these essential questions in one comprehensive report.

2018 Schooling in America Survey: Public Opinion on K–12 Education, Parent and Teacher Experiences, Accountability, and School Choice
This annual survey from EdChoice, conducted in partnership with Braun Research, Inc., measures public opinion and awareness on a range of K–12 education topics, including parents’ schooling preferences, educational choice policies, and the federal government’s role in education. The survey also records response levels, differences, and intensities for citizens located across the country and in a variety of demographic groups.

Competition: For the Children
This study from the Texas Public Policy Foundation claims universal school choice results in higher test scores for students remaining in traditional public schools and improved high school graduation rates.

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 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.

The Heartland Institute can send an expert to your state to testify or brief your caucus; host an event in your state; or send you further information on a topic. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance! If you have any questions or comments, contact Lennie Jarratt, Heartland’s project manager at the Center for Transforming Education, at [email protected] or 312/377-4000.”