Survey Shows Florida Scholarship Parents Are Overwhelmingly Satisfied with Their Children’s Schools

By Kathryn Hickok

Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program currently helps more than a hundred thousand of the state’s most disadvantaged students to get a better education through privately funded scholarships, making it the largest private school choice program in America. The program has been funded by voluntary corporate donations to nonprofit scholarship organizations. In return for these donations, companies receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits against their state income tax.

Last week, EdChoice released the largest-ever survey of the parents of Florida’s tax credit scholarship students, revealing these families’ educational priorities and experiences.

Analyzing the responses of more than fourteen thousand parents, EdChoice concluded:

  • “The vast majority of Florida scholarship parents expressed satisfaction with the tax-credit scholarship program.”
  • “Florida parents chose their children’s private schools because those schools offer what their public schools can’t/don’t.”
  • “Among respondents whose children were previously enrolled in a public district or charter school before using a scholarship to enroll in a private school, most parents reported engaging in a variety of education-related activities more often than before switching schools….”

Children have different talents, interests, and needs; and they learn in different ways. The landscape of educational options to meet students’ learning needs is more diverse today than ever. For more information about school choice in Oregon, visit schoolchoicefororegon.com.

 

John Kathryn Hickok is Executive Vice President at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization. She is also director of Cascade’s Children’s Scholarship Fund-Oregon program, which provides partial tuition scholarships to Oregon elementary students from lower-income families.

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What’s at the Root of Oregon’s Education Problems? (Steve Jobs Already Told Us the Answer)

By Steve Buckstein

The Oregon legislature will embark on an “impossible mission” to achieve student success in our public school system. Members of the Joint Committee on Student Success will travel the state this year, asking everyone they meet what constitutes success in their communities. They then will return to the marble halls of the State Capitol and recommend that every school be mandated to do “what works” somewhere—of course, at a higher cost to taxpayers than they’re already paying.

The Committee could save time and trouble if it listened instead to just one famous Oregon college dropout: the late founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. Back in 1996, Jobs said:

“What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent. It’s a political problem….The problems are unions. You plot the growth of the National Education Association and the dropping of SAT scores, and they’re inversely proportional. The problems are unions in the schools. The problem is bureaucracy. I’m one of these people who believes the best thing we could ever do is go to the voucher [school choice] system.”

Of course, things in education have gotten worse in the two decades since Steve Jobs told us the answer—while virtually every area of our lives not monopolized by government has improved. If Jobs were alive today, he might ask us, “Can you hear me now?”

Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst and Founder of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Oregon Parents Deserve to Be the Voice for Kids’ Education Options

By Bobbie Jager

For the second year in a row, Oregon has reported the third-lowest graduation rate in the country. With a four-year adjusted public high school graduation rate of 74.8% (2015-16), Oregon only beats Nevada and New Mexico, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The typical response to this kind of bad news is for teachers unions and legislators to claim that taxpayers are “underfunding” public schools; and that’s why so many kids don’t make it to graduation. But Oregon already spends more on K-12 education than 33 other states. According to the National Education Association’s Rankings & Estimates report for 2016 and 2017, revenue per Oregon student in Average Daily Attendance is nearly $14,000, including local, state, and federal funding. That puts Oregon more than four percent above the national average in school spending.

As a mother and parental choice advocate, I have been involved with education for 38 years, and I have been deeply involved at the state level here in Oregon for five. I have listened to story after story of young people whose parents went to extraordinary lengths to help them succeed in school. Whether through earning a scholarship to a private school, moving to another neighborhood or public school district, winning a charter school enrollment lottery, or choosing online or home school options, Oregon families have amazing tales to tell. While there are many inspiring success stories, there are also far too many heartbreaking examples of frustration and of families spending years fighting the government school bureaucracy.

I have interacted with the public school system for decades. Sadly, nothing is changing for the better. When is enough, enough? The one-size-fits-all, government-run school system isn’t meeting the learning needs of many kids today. Handing more money to the same system isn’t changing anything.

As parents, we have the right and the responsibility to say it’s time for us to have the power to choose the education options that are best for our children. We are the ones who tuck our children in at night, help them when they can’t understand their schoolwork, hold them when they “feel dumb” because they’re just not getting it, or support and encourage them when they are a “failure to launch” into adult life because they didn’t get the education they needed to get a good start. But parents are too often the last ones invited into the conversation or listened to.

To raise awareness about all the choices parents have for K-12 education today, Americans from coast to coast are celebrating National School Choice Week January 21-27, 2018. Beginning seven years ago with 150 events, the Week has grown exponentially ever since, becoming the world’s largest education-related public awareness effort. National School Choice Week (www.schoolchoiceweek.com) is nonpartisan and nonpolitical and does not advocate for or against any legislation.

National School Choice Week celebrations include school fairs, parent nights, school tours, educational field trips, homeschool information sessions, student performances, celebratory rallies, and more. More than 32,240 events and activities will focus on all education options available today, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online learning, and homeschooling. More than 313 events will take place in Oregon alone, sponsored by private schools, charter schools, and other organizations.

Hundreds of thousands of parents already “vote with their feet” to get their children the education that is best suited to their talents, interests, needs, and learning styles. They sacrifice whatever it takes to make sure their children have the chance to succeed. Whatever kinds of schools parents choose, the landscape of educational options to meet students’ learning needs is more diverse today than ever.

I believe that with Oregon’s latest round of dismal graduation results, we are at a tipping point. There are no “do-overs” when a child is growing up. We must get it right from the start. More choice in education is the way of the future. Join us in celebrating National School Choice Week, and help us make a change for your—and for all—children.

Bobbie Jager, Oregon’s 2012 “Mother of the Year,” is a parental choice advocate and the School Choice Outreach Coordinator for the Portland-based Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization. A version of this article was originally published by the Pamplin Media Group and appeared in The Portland Tribune on January 25, 2018.

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Give Oregon Kids the Power of Educational Choice, Like Kids in Florida

By Kathryn Hickok

Denisha Merriweather failed third grade twice. Today, she is finishing her master’s degree, thanks to Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The key to Denisha’s success was her godmother’s ability to remove Denisha from a school that was failing her, and to send her to the school that provided her with the support she needed.

On December 13, a Florida appeals court reaffirmed the groundbreaking program’s constitutionality. This is a major victory for the 100,000 low-income Florida children and children with disabilities who are attending schools where they can thrive, thanks to scholarships.

A lawyer supportive of the court’s ruling said, “…[T]hese students will not be forced, against the will of their parents, to return to whichever public school their ZIP Code dictates….This court correctly recognized that school choice programs expand opportunity and achievement for students, and without doing so at the expense of the public school system.”

The one-size-fits-all, government-run school system isn’t meeting the learning needs of all kids today. Oregon continues to have the third-lowest graduation rate in the country. Handing more money to the same system won’t change anything. But giving parents the power of choice in their children’s education would change everything.

Oregon students should be able to find their own paths to success, just like kids in Florida.

Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director and Director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Oregon program at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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