Research & Commentary: Most Indiana Parents Are Satisfied with School Choice, but Many Still Don’t Know Choice Programs Exist

Published September 27, 2017

A survey released in September 2017 from EdChoice titled “Why Indiana Parents Choose: A Cross-Sector Survey of Parents’ Views in a Robust School Choice Environment,” examines responses from over 1,000 respondents who have participated in the Hoosier State’s Choice Scholarship Program (voucher) or School Scholarship Tax Credit program in the past or are now. It found 86 percent of the respondents were satisfied with the voucher program, while 83 percent were satisfied with the tax-credit scholarship program. Only 8 percent and 4 percent were dissatisfied with the programs, respectively.

The Choice Scholarship Program is the largest statewide voucher program in the country; the program has more than 34,000 participants attending more than 300 schools. This figure is impressive, especially considering only 54 percent of the state’s K–12 students meet the program’s income qualifications. The School Scholarship Tax Credit, with more than 9,400 participants in greater than 300 schools, is available to 49 percent of Indiana K–12 students.

The survey also questioned parents of district public school and charter school students. Thirty-nine percent of the 1,452 respondents who identified as parents of a child in a district public school were unaware of Indiana’s two private school choice programs; 36 percent of the 210 respondents who were parents of children attending a charter school gave the same answer. These numbers were so high, they came as a “shock” to one of the authors.

Of these parents who were previously in the dark about the programs, 62 percent said they would be “very or extremely likely” to participate in one if they met eligibility requirements or if the programs covered full tuition costs. Only eight and 10 percent, respectively, said they were “not at all likely” to participate in the programs.

Those who were participating in the programs were most likely (47 percent) to find out about their school through friends or relatives. Thirty-seven percent said friends and relatives were their “most trusted” source of information when learning about their school. This finding “shows the power of social networks,” according to the authors. Twenty-six percent found out through their church (16 percent also said it was their most trusted information source), while another 20 percent found their school through the internet. Another 16 percent found out about their private school from their local district school.

At least half of responding parents who are utilizing one of the private choice programs said they were now more involved with their child’s education than they were at the child’s previous school. Sixty-one percent said they spent more time communicating with teachers or participating in school activities. Fifty-five percent said they spent more time helping out with math homework, and 49 percent said they were more often utilizing online educational resources. Another 55 percent said they had spent more time volunteering or participating in community services.

“Overall, the results presented here show that parents value the opportunity to choose a school they believe is a better fit for their child,” the authors wrote. “Parents value the autonomy to choose a school outside of their neighborhood, especially if they can find a school that holds the same values.”

The authors concluded with good advice for legislators: “All families should have the opportunity to be completely satisfied when it comes to the school in which their children are educated, and though that may wind up being a ZIP Code-assigned district school, all families should have the option to identify and choose the school that is the best for their children, regardless of income.”

The following documents provide more information about private education choice.

Why Indiana Parents Choose: A Cross-Sector Survey of Parents’ Views in a Robust School Choice Environment
This survey developed by EdChoice and conducted by Hanover Research aims to measure what motivates parents from all sectors—private, public, and charter—to choose schools, as well as their awareness of school choice options, their satisfaction levels, and the goals they set for their children’s education.

Why Parents Choose: A Survey of Private School and School Choice Parents in Indiana
This 2016 EdChoice survey is a follow up to the “Why Indiana Voucher Parents Choose Private Schools,” published in 2014, and the precursor of 2017’s “Why Indiana Parents Choose.” Over 2,000 private school parents took part in the latest survey. Forty-nine percent of the respondents to EdChoice’s original survey also took part in the second survey. The overwhelming majority of respondents were satisfied with their child’s new private school, indicating the Hoosier State’s school-choice programs are accomplishing their goal of matching students with schools that are more likely to fit their needs.

A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice (Fourth Edition)
This paper by EdChoice details the vast body of research on educational choice programs, determining school choice improves 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.

Education Savings Accounts: The Future of School Choice Has Arrived
In this Heartland Policy Brief, Policy Analyst Tim Benson discusses how universal educational savings account (ESA) programs offer the most comprehensive range of educational choices to parents; describes the six ESA programs currently in operation; and reviews possible state-level constitutional challenges to ESA programs.

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.


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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