How Parents Feel about School Choice Then and Now

How do the nation’s first vouchers for students with special needs match up against the country’s first education savings accounts (ESAs) for students with special needs? As Led Zeppelin once sang, “Then as it was, then again it will be….”

It’s been 10 years since researchers Jay P. Greene and Greg Forster (a Senior Fellow with the Friedman Foundation) released their empirical survey of families enrolled in Florida’s McKay voucher program. Since then, 12 other states have passed school choice programs that specifically make children with special needs eligible, including Arizona with its one-of-a-kind ESA program. Just last week, the Friedman Foundation published the first survey on ESA parents’ satisfaction with the Arizona program conducted by researchers Jonathan Butcher and Jason Bedrick.

It’s important to note the Greene-Forster study relied on a random sample of participants whereas the Butcher-Bedrick report was self-selected; so the comparisons between the two studies are not apples to apples – more like cacti to oranges. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see how similar the authors’ findings are, 10 years and 2,000 miles apart.

First, there’s the satisfaction:

Satisfaction with School Choice vs Public Schools
Then, there’s the money:

Amount Spent on Vouchers and Education Savings Accounts
The findings show there is a level of consistency we can expect from school choice, which we’ve seen in other areas researched. Whether it’s vouchers or ESAs, the outcomes are promising. Or, as Zep front man Robert Plant belted in Ten Years Gone, “Flyin’ skys of fortune, each have separate ways….”