An Analysis of Why and How Parents Choose Private Schools

November 27, 2013

Frustrated by the failure of many local public school districts to educate students adequately, parents, politicians and policymakers are considering alternative systems for the delivery of K-12 education in America, say Jim Kelly, founder and General Counsel of Georgia Community Foundation, Inc., and Ben Scafidi, a professor of economics and director of the Economics of Education Policy Center at Georgia College & State University.

In 2013, Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, Inc. (GOAL), a tax-exempt, nonprofit student scholarship organization operating under Georgia's Education Expense Credit (i.e., tax-credit scholarship) law, asked the parents of scholarship recipients to complete a survey pertaining to the reasons they chose a private school for their children and the information about private schools that they deem important to the school selection process.

  • Georgia provides dollar-for-dollar tax credits for donations to Student Scholarship Organizations, nonprofits that provide private school scholarships.
  • Individuals may claim up to $1,000 and married couples filing jointly may claim up to $2,500.
  • An individual who is a member of an LLC, a shareholder of an "S" corporation, or a partner in a partnership may claim up to $10,000 of their tax actually paid as a member, shareholder or partner.
  • Corporate taxpayers may claim up to 75 percent of their total tax liability. The program is capped at $58 million in tax credits per year.
  • Surveyed parents were overwhelmingly satisfied with their private school choice, with 98.6 percent of parents being "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with their decision to send their children to a private school using a GOAL scholarship.

The implementation of K-12 school choice programs (e.g., tax-credit scholarships and vouchers) in many states is producing a large number of parents who, for a variety of reasons, have transferred their children from public to private schools.

The top five reasons why parents chose a private school for their children are all related to school climate and classroom management, including:

  • "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 listed higher standardized test scores as one of their top five reasons.

Source: Benjamin Scafidi and Jim Kelly, "More Than Scores: An Analysis of Why and How Parents Choose Private Schools," Friedman Foundation, November 13, 2013.

 

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