ON-Lion Letter
When choosing schools for their children, low- to moderate-income parents use the same techniques and tools, and are just as satisfied with their decisions, as other wealthier parents, a new study funded by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee has found.
Low- to moderate-income parents proactively seek information about school choices “consistent with decisionmaking generally in consumer affairs, and also with how upper-income parents approach school choice,” according to Opening Doors:  How Low-Income Parents Search for the Right School, published by the the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington in Seattle.
The report surveys the school-choice decisions of 800 low- to moderate-income families (annually earning $50,000 or less) in Milwaukee, Washington, D.C., and Denver.

“These families visit schools, talk with administrators and teachers, talk with family and friends, other parents and students, and review printed materials as they gather information,” said its principal author, University of Colorado at Denver professor of public affiars Paul Teske.  “After their children are in the schools of their choice, they report an equal or higher degree of satisfaction then other parents on other schools.”

Specifically, 45% of these surveyed parents cited some aspects of academic quality as their top factor in picking a school, 19% cited curriculum or a school’s thematic focus, and only 11% gave location or convenience as a top factor.

CRPE is part of the University of Washington’s Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs.  It is directed by Professor Paul T. Hill, who is also a nonresident senior fellow of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.  Hill chaired Brookings’ National Working Commission on Choice in K-12 Education, which released its final report in November 2003.

Over the next several months, the Doing School Choice Right Initiative will issue other reports on per-pupil funding and public oversight of choice schools.

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