Just a warning, I’m definitely going to wonk out on this one. A new study by the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (www.edchoice.org/morethanscores ) surveyed over 700 Georgia parents who received GOAL Scholarships and moved their child from a public to a private school. GOAL is the largest student scholarship organization in Georgia and was created under the Georgia K-12 tuition tax credit scholarship program. Taxpayers are allowed to donate a grand total of $58 million per year (less than 1 percent of all K-12 spending in Georgia) to student scholarship organizations that provide scholarships to families with children in grades K-12.
There are some pretty interesting findings in the study.
- 98.6 percent of GOAL scholarship parents are “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their decision to send their child to a private school—relative to their satisfaction with their former public school.
- These low and middle income parents expressed a wide variety of reasons for choosing a private school. The most important reasons were: “better student discipline” (50.9 percent); “better learning environment” (50.8 percent); “smaller class sizes” (48.9 percent); “improved student safety” (46.8 percent); and “more individual attention for my child” (39.3 percent).
- Only 10.2 percent rated “higher standardized test scores” as one of their top five reasons for choosing a private school. Parents care more about high school graduation and success in college.
- No parents rated “higher standardized test scores” as their most important reason for choosing a private school.
- Perhaps the severe academic, social and cultural challenges facing many American youth today are why so many parents care more about safety and order rather than standardized test scores.
- Low income parents are willing to take several time consuming steps to obtain information about private schools.
- 79 percent of parents said that if a private school declined to provide them with information they desire that it ‘would’ impact their school choice decision; another 20 percent said that it ‘might’ impact their decision.
From the information in this study, it would seem to me, that the General Assembly should let private schools be private schools and let parents choose them if they want to. It seems like low and middle income parents do a fine job holding private schools accountable for educating their students well.
With so many horror stories about APS and others, this seems to be a viable way to break the poverty cycle. As well as get more knowledgeable and capable students into college and into our workforce. Which, when it comes down to it, we should care more about what is best for the child than what is best for currently entrenched interests.
The report concludes that (using their language) crowd-sourcing and other tools to give parents information (like www.greatschools.org ) should arise from civil society under a “spontaneous education order”. By allowing more parental choice in education, the Georgia General Assembly will allow the creation of this spontaneous education order.