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August 29 2018

Want all Schools to be Grade-A? Then give parents ESAs.

by Vicki E. Alger

Parents view the quality their own children’s K-12 education more favorably than the quality of American education as a whole, 71 percent compared to 48 percent according to Gallup. Likewise, 57 percent of parents give their local schools a grade of an A or B, but just 27 percent give the country’s schools such high marks, according to Education Next’s latest annual poll.

Satisfaction levels are even lower among the general public.

Just 43 percent report being satisfied with the quality of K-12 education nationwide, while less than one in four (24 percent) give the country’s schools a grade of an A or B.

These results reflect a longstanding trend of viewing one’s own schools more favorably than everybody else’s. But a finding from Education Next adds a troubling wrinkle.

When asked to grade a variety of local public services in their communities, only about half of respondents gave their schools high grades. Close to seven out of 10 respondents gave their local police forces and post offices an A or B grade, 69 percent and 68 percent, respectively. Just 51 percent gave their local schools those grades.

Expanding parental choice would help.

Barely half of parents whose children attend assigned public schools report being very satisfied overall, 52 percent, compared to 62 percent of parents whose children attend public schools they chose. Satisfaction levels are even higher at private schools, with nearly 80 percent of parents saying they are very satisfied.

Numerous studies spanning decades have consistently documented higher parental satisfaction levels with private schools compared to public schools (see also here and here). A leading reason why is the fact that families choose them (p. 26).

Want to make parents even more satisfied? Let them choose how, not just where, their children are educated.

An innovation in parental choice called education savings accounts, or ESAs, puts parents in control of their children’s education dollars. With those funds, parents pay far approved educational expenses, including private school tuition, tutoring, online courses, and special education therapies. Best of all, parents can roll over unused funds from one year to the next for future education expenses, including college.

Arizona became the first state to enact an ESA program in 2011, and since then five more states have followed suit. ESAs foster an unprecedented level of personalized learning opportunities for students customized by their parents, the ones who know and love them best.

Not surprisingly, ESAs are a huge hit with moms and dads.

An unprecedented 100 percent of participating Arizona parents said they were satisfied with the ESA program, including 71 percent of “very satisfied” parents (p. 13). In fact, no Arizona ESA parent reported being neutral or dissatisfied. In contrast, just 43 percent of those parents reported any level of satisfaction with their children’s previous schools.

I really love the ESA program,” said one participating Arizona parent. “It has given parents a choice where there was none. It indirectly raises the expectations of school programs. It raises the level of care, raises the competition between schools—a giant benefit for the whole population. Bravo!”

Want to make every school a grade-A school with parents? Then give them ESAs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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