How and why do Hoosier parents choose private schools? Are they satisfied with their choices? Are Indiana’s school-choice programs easy to navigate?
These are the questions we set out to answer in Why Parents Choose, a report we recently co-authored for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice based on survey responses from more than 2,000 Indiana private-school parents. Indiana is home to the largest voucher program in the United States.
This report provides an important look at a group that’s often overlooked in the ongoing debate about K-12 education: families trying to find a school that best meets their children’s needs.
Statewide, our survey found that a vast majority of parents using Indiana’s voucher and tax-credit scholarship programs are overwhelmingly satisfied with their new schools and were easily able to find a participating private school. This is noteworthy because critics of school choice often claim these programs are too complicated for low-income parents to figure out.
Our research found that parents rely heavily on their social networks and churches to learn about private schools, and parents become more engaged in their schools and communities after they choose a private school. Nearly 80 percent of Hoosier parents reported choosing their private school for one of three reasons: religious environment, better academics or morals, value and character instruction.
Of the school-choice parents surveyed in northeast Indiana, 48 percent were satisfied with their prior school, compared with 91 percent who are satisfied with their current private school. Of that percentage, 83 percent said they are "very satisfied" with their new school.
In this region, voucher and tax-credit scholarship parents chose private schools because of religious environment/instruction (87 percent), morals/character/values instruction (81 percent) and better academics (57 percent).
Once in these schools, 79 percent of northeast Indiana parents reported that they communicate with teachers more often than they did in their previous school.
As we look at these results, both locally and statewide, it’s clear that Hoosier parents – those with the most at stake – are embracing school choice and the schools they’re choosing. Indiana has committed to providing educational opportunities to all families, and families in turn are committing their heads and hearts to the schools they have been given the opportunity to choose.