One-third of Hoosier parents unaware of state’s voucher, tax-credit scholarship programs
INDIANAPOLIS—EdChoice, a national nonprofit organization that promotes state-based educational choice programs, today released a cross-sector survey of Indiana parents with K-12 students in private, public and charter schools, including roughly 1,000 parents who have used the state’s voucher or tax-credit scholarship programs to access a private school.
The survey measures what motivates parents to choose schools, their children’s schooling experiences, their awareness of school choice options, their satisfaction levels and goals they set for their children’s education. EdChoice has surveyed Indiana private school parents twice before, but this is the first time the survey has included other schooling sectors.
“We know from our prior research that private school parents, especially those using Indiana’s choice programs, experience increased levels of satisfaction in their new schools,” said EdChoice President and CEO Robert Enlow. “We wanted to find out how parents in other sectors feel about their schools and choices.”
One of the most notable findings in the report is that despite six years in operation, one-third of public and non-choice private school parents—and roughly half of all low-income public school parents—were unaware of the state’s choice programs, which are means-tested to serve low- and middle-income families.
Once they were informed about the program, 62 percent of those parents said they would be very or extremely likely to participate in either the voucher or tax-credit scholarship program if they qualified or if the amount covered the full amount of tuition.
“Indiana is a national leader when it comes to the way our programs operate and the number of students we’re able to serve, but we’ve still got work to do making sure families know these programs are available to help their students,” Enlow said. “Parents want options, and we need to do a better job letting them know those options are out there.”
- Awareness of Indiana’s school choice programs among public district and charter school parents is low.
More than one-third of parents not participating in a program said they haven’t opted to use the Indiana’s private school choice programs because they were unaware the programs existed. Of district school parents, 39 percent said they were unaware of the programs, and 36 percent of charter school parents said the same. Interestingly, 62 percent of parents would be very or extremely likely to participate in the programs if they qualified or if the amount covered the full amount of tuition.
- Parents who use Indiana’s private school choice programs are overwhelmingly satisfied and find it easy to find and enroll in their schools of choice.
In fact, 86 percent of parents are somewhat or completely satisfied with Indiana’s voucher program, and 83 percent said the same about the tax-credit scholarship program. On average, three-fifths of parents using Indiana’s private school choice programs found it somewhat or very easy to find their children’s current schools. Private school parents also are significantly more likely than district school parents to report being satisfied with their children’s current schools.
- Most families that stop using Indiana’s private school choice programs do so because eligibility restrictions push them out or their children simply graduate.
Of the 1,018 current and former voucher and tax-credit scholarship parents who responded to the 2017 survey, 85 percent have at least one child participating in the voucher or tax-credit scholarship program, 6 percent no longer meet program eligibility requirements, and 5 percent no longer have any children in K–12 education. The majority of former program participants now send their children to public schools. If Indiana’s voucher program didn’t exist, 45 percent of current voucher parents said they would send their children to their local district school, and 13 percent, a public charter school. These data directly contradict the Indiana Department of Education’s assertion that all voucher students would attend private school regardless of whether or not the program existed.
- At least half of parents who use Indiana’s private school choice programs say they are more involved in their children’s schooling now than they were in their previous schools.
Sixty-one percent say they communicate with teachers and participate in school activities more, and 55 percent say they volunteer or perform community service more. More than two-thirds of parents using private school choice programs have taken on a part-time or other job for additional income, changed their job and/or taken out a new loan to support their children’s K–12 education. Only 32 percent of district school parents took at least one of those same actions. Notably, parents who chose schools other than their ZIP Code-assigned schools are more likely than district school parents to do the following for the sake of their children’s education: change their daily routines, employ the help of family and friends for childcare or pay for tutoring, transportation and other services.