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Center Ideas: Parents Need Relevant Information to Make Informed School Choices

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R) recently offered education savings accounts (ESAs) for students in the Mountain State by signing House Bill 2013 into law, creating the “Hope Scholarship Program.” Typically, ESA programs provide a set amount of money, based on per-pupil funding for public schools, into a bank account for families who have chosen to withdraw their children from public schools.

Families can use these funds to cover a restricted set of activities, including paying tuition at private schools. Prior to HB 2013, five other states operated ESA programs. But, West Virginia’s has been touted as the nation’s most expansive ESA program with over 90% of students in West Virginia being eligible and ESA funds of up to $4,600 annually per pupil (Forbes, March 20, 2021). HB 2013 gives parents the option to use funds for educational expenses, such as private-school tuition, home tutoring, learning aids and other acceptable expenses.

For those interested in learning more about School Choice programs, the National Comprehensive Center has developed a Portfolio of School Choice, a series of briefs that covers district-level open enrollment, charter schools, private schools, homeschooling, virtual schooling, dual enrollment (high school and college), and rural education. The briefs provide a summary of trends in participation and outcomes, and best practices to support policymakers in designing school choice policies. 

Also, a common barrier to School Choice Programs, such as ESAs, is that parents have difficulty accessing relevant information about the programs and making informed decisions. Presenting School Choice Information to Parents: An Evidence-Based Guide is a resource for those considering how to present information to parents, specifically how the design of the displays affects parents’ understanding of the school information, their satisfaction with the display, its perceived ease of use, and the choices they make. These dimensions offer ways to evaluate how well ESA program information is shared with parents. 

For more information and support, contact the Region 5 Comprehensive Center.