INDIANAPOLIS, IN—Gov. Mike Pence’s push to expand the state’s school voucher program to pre-kindergarten students likely won’t find opposition from those already using vouchers, according to a new survey
of Hoosier parents.
Among surveyed parents using the state’s “school choice” programs, 90 percent reported being satisfied with their new private school. By comparison, just 34 percent were satisfied with their previous public school. The survey was conducted by the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Indiana Non-Public Education Association (INPEA), and School Choice Indiana (SCI).
Better academics was the main reason 78 percent of surveyed parents switched to private schools, with morals and values ranking second and a school’s religious aspects placing third.
Of the 4,072 private school parents surveyed, 1,397 indicated they have used state vouchers or scholarships provided by nonprofits, which are funded by individual and corporate contributions that entitle donors to an offsetting state income tax credit.
“As policymakers consider increasing the availability of vouchers, the fact most parents are choosing schools based on academics should comfort those concerned about accountability,” Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation, said. “If parents are satisfied, we should be satisfied.”
Indiana’s public schools generally were supportive of parents using vouchers and tax-credit scholarships, with 43 percent of respondents saying their previous public school supported their decision to leave—nearly 24 percent reported their public school was not supportive.
“School choice actually is a benefit to our public schools, many of which are doing a commendable job educating students,” Betsy Wiley, SCI’s president, said. “Vouchers are just an option for parents in need of something different for their children.”
Nor did most public schools actively try to dissuade parents from switching schools using the state’s choice programs. Only one in six parents said their public schools did try to discourage their move.
“We see ourselves not as a threat to public education but as a helping hand ready to serve students in need,” John Elcesser, INPEA executive director, said. “Private schools, like public schools, just want to move our state forward and give our children a bright future.”
The Friedman/INPEA/SCI survey was prompted by the Indiana legislature to learn more about why participating parents chose private schools over public ones. In the 2014 legislative session, lawmakers are expected to consider a proposal from Gov. Pence that would make all pre-kindergarten students eligible for vouchers.
The sponsors noted that survey respondents were self-selected and no statistical adjustments were made with respect to demographics. Still, they say the survey provides an accurate reflection of the experiences of choice families who attend private schools and further evidence the state should expand its school choice programs to include more Hoosiers.
About the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, solely dedicated to advancing Milton and Rose D. Friedman’s vision of school choice for all children. The Foundation promotes school choice as the most effective and equitable way to improve the quality of K-12 education in America.