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Why Parents Choose: A Survey of Private School and School Choice Parents in Indiana

June 26, 2016
By Andrew D. Catt and Evan Rhinesmith

If Indiana’s private school choice programs were judged solely on parental satisfaction, they would be considered an obvious success. However, parental satisfaction without explanation provides little substance to policymakers.

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If Indiana’s private school choice programs were judged solely on parental satisfaction, they would be considered an obvious success. However, parental satisfaction without explanation provides little substance to policymakers. With that in mind, this report presents data that sheds light on the experiences and motivations underlying parents’ attitudes toward private school choice programs. The purpose of the survey is to better understand the experiences of private school parents and examine the reasons behind parents’ schooling decisions, especially when their children are using a voucher.

These data come from an original survey of parents whose children are enrolled in private schools in Indiana. The survey was administered in two phases. The first phase followed up with voucher parents that responded to a Friedman Foundation survey in 2013, and the second phase was expanded to include all current private school parents in Indiana.

Sixteen percent of parents who responded to both the 2013 and 2016 surveys no longer have any children in the program, and half of those parents transferred their children back to their public district (neighborhood) schools. This directly contradicts the Indiana Department of Education’s assertion that voucher students would attend private school regardless of whether or not the program existed.

When looking at all 2016 survey respondents, a majority of school choice parents were at least somewhat satisfied with the school they had left.

By contrast, school choice parents are overwhelmingly satisfied with their current private school, with 81 percent being very satisfied and 12 percent being somewhat satisfied.

The majority of school choice parents surveyed (83 percent) said they were easily able to find their current private school under Indiana’s voucher or tax-credit scholarship program.

Taken together, these results indicate that parents are leaving public schools because they are not the best fit for their children. When choosing private schools, they are looking for the ones that will help their children develop into moral, educated citizens who know the difference between right and wrong and have a sense of values. School choice parents report that they are having an easy time finding the right voucher or tax-credit scholarship school, and nearly twice as many are satisfied with their new school compared to their former school.

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Education