N.C. State researchers Anna Egalite, Ashley Gray, and Trip Stallings recently published “Parent Perspectives: Applicants to North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program Share Their Experiences.” The report surveys the opinions of recipients and non-users of the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which offers $4,200 private school vouchers for children from low-income families.
Here are a few of the highlights (taken directly from the report):
- The majority of parents indicated that they learned about the Opportunity Scholarship program through informal means, primarily from conversations with friends and relatives.
- Parents’ reasons for non-use of an Opportunity Scholarship are diverse, but some patterns stand out. Parents cited hidden or unanticipated costs, such as transportation, as well as breakfast and lunches, which would otherwise be provided free of charge at a traditional public school.
- Just under half (45 percent) of parents who applied for but did not end up using an Opportunity Scholarship said they enrolled their children in private schools anyway, and paid for it by self-financing the tuition and fees or by applying for financial aid from another source, such as a scholarship offered by an individual private school.
- Parents of Opportunity Scholarship users appear very satisfied with their child’s new school environment, with 94 percent assigning a grade of “A” or “B” to their child’s current private school. Conversely, these parents were more likely to assign a grade of “C” or lower to their child’s previous public school (73 percent).
- When asked what proportion of their expenses the Opportunity Scholarship covers at their chosen private school, the majority of parents (79 percent) indicated that they were responsible for some degree of co-payment.
- The most common reason cited for wanting to leave the public school system was school quality, selected by approximately one-third of parents (35 percent). Concerns about school safety were also prevalent, selected by one-quarter of parents (26 percent).
- Ninety-four percent of parents said the educational quality of a private school was a “very important” consideration when choosing which school their child would attend. Only 33 percent of parents said access to extracurricular activities was “very important.”
There are a number of takeaways from the report, which I will discuss in a longer piece next week. But it is worth noting that parents are very satisfied with their decision, although some struggle to meet the additional financial demands associated with attending a private school. Some of these concerns can be remedied by increasing the scholarship amount.