Parents want educational programs that empower them to choose the best setting to meet the learning needs of their children. This is certainly true for Florida families where the demand for educational choice far exceeds capacity in both public and private choice programs.
Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program – the largest private school choice program in the nation – is no exception. Over the years, I’ve heard from many scholarship families on how the program has transformed the lives of their children and given them hope for lifelong success.
New research confirms what we have long-suspected: parents value the ability to find the right school for their child.
This week, EdChoice released a new survey finding that parents using Florida’s Tax-Credit Scholarship program to find the right school for their children are overwhelming satisfied. Researchers surveyed more than 14,000 parents about their experience with the program, which helps low-income families send their child to a participating private school.
What are the major takeaways? Greater than nine in ten parents express satisfaction with the scholarship program, including 89 percent who are “completely satisfied.”
Similarly, 89 percent of parents are satisfied with the school their child attends because of a scholarship.
These are stunning results from the largest survey ever conducted of parents with children participating in private education choice.
The Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship, which began in 2001, served more than 108,000 low-income students last school year. The average family annual income for a participating student was less than $26,000.
In addition to being popular with parents, recent research shows the program also produces consistent learning gains and post-secondary success.
All students participating in Florida’s program must take a nationally-recognized test that tracks their progress in critical subjects like math and reading. Each year, independent researchers evaluate the program to determine if students are making academic progress. The most recent evaluation not only showed learning gains, but also that participating students tend to outperform their demographic peers.
A 2017 report from the Urban Institute found participating students were 15 percent more likely than their peers to enroll in college. And, the longer a student participated in the program, the greater the benefit.
Although education programs are often evaluated by their effects on short-term student achievement, the full measure of education quality cannot be captured by test scores alone. As the EdChoice authors Jason Bedrick and Lindsey Burke write:
“The high level of satisfaction alone is compelling evidence of the success of the program, but additional context is necessary to understand why parents are satisfied. The survey reveals that parents are pleased with a wide variety of measures of performance: the quality of education provided, student safety and discipline, how teachers treat and care for students, how students treat and care for each other, how teachers and staff work with parents to address problems that arise, and more.”
The survey findings have national implications as many states have modeled tax-credit scholarship policy after Florida’s successful program.
As leaders from across the country look for ways to improve student outcomes, these results add to the growing body of research that underscore what we know to be true: students do best when they are in the educational setting that works for them.
About the author
Patricia Levesque @levesquepat
Patricia is the Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She served as Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff for education, enterprise solutions for government, minority procurement, and business and professional regulation. Previously, Patricia served six years in the Florida Legislature in the Speakers Office and as staff director over education policy. Contact Patricia at PatriciaLevesque@excelined.org