More than three-quarters of those participating in the Kansas Tax Credit for Low-Income Students (TCS) program are satisfied with the program according to a recent parent survey. The survey was conducted through EdChoice and received responses from nearly 1,000 Kansas parents. Respondents included parents of students across the spectrum of school settings, including those participating in the tax credit scholarship program.
The Kansas TCS program was launched in 2015 and has served 3,249 students since its inception. It is important to understand that any TCS program is not government funded. The money comes from private donors (companies and individuals) who get a state income tax credit for donating directly to a recognized non-profit organization that provides scholarships to families to attend a private school. In order to qualify for a scholarship, families must meet certain income guidelines. (A full description of TCS programs can be accessed here.)
Key takeaways from the results of the survey:
- More than three-quarters of participants in the Kansas TCS program are satisfied with the program.
- A safe environment was the most influential factor for participating in the TCS program.
- Parents of those in the TCS program are more likely to feel positive about the education environments than parents of those in traditional public schools.
- Over half of parents said participating in the TCS program “made me feel like I’m more in charge of my child’s education.”
- Only 25% of parents said a reason they never used the program is that they are happy with the school their child attends.
- School climate is important to parents. Those in the program felt better on all of the survey’s six measures of school climate than parents of children in traditional public schools.
- The main reason participation is low is that there are many eligible families out there who simply aren’t aware the program exists.
As this survey reveals, school choice is about much more than simply test scores. School safety has become a key educational issue, and that is reflected in the responses to this survey. Simply put, if parents and students don’t feel safe at school, they have much less chance for success. And given the fact that parents feel more in control of their children’s education and feel better about the school climate, the chance for student success given those conditions is much higher.
The concluding paragraph of the survey report puts it all in perspective:
Consistently, parents using the tax-credit scholarship program are more positive about their children’s current school climates than traditional public school parents. Participating parents are more likely to say that their children have good relationships with their teachers (81% versus 73%), that their children are safe at school (76% versus 67%), that their current schools’ staff makes the parents feel welcome (72% versus 65%), that the parents have good relationships with the teachers (73% versus 63%), that their schools use appropriate disciplinary strategies (66% versus 56%), and that their schools seek parents’ input on events and programs.
To all the school choice naysayers, it’s pretty hard to argue against that.
The only drawback of the TCS program is that not enough people know about it and it is restrictive in the number of students who can qualify. As EdChoice rightly recommends, “in order to expand access to educational choice, Kansas policymakers should dramatically increase the available tax credits and expand eligibility to all students (prioritizing scholarships based on need).” Indeed, not only should the program be expanded, other choice options (ESAs in particular) should be adopted.