Analysis of data from a unique survey experiment Adam B. Schaeffer, Ph.D. Center for Educational Freedom Cato Institute How to Think and Talk About Education Tax Credits & Vouchers
What Messages Work & Why How Do Different Arguments Impact the Expected Effects of Private Choice? Are There Differences Between Effective Voucher & Credit Messages? How to Talk About Private Choice Policies
What Policies Were Tested? Vouchers: Government funds paid to families for use in obtaining a private education. Personal Use Tax Credits:Tax credits given to individual taxpayers for education expenditures made on behalf of their own children. Individual Donation Tax Credit:Tax credits given to individual taxpayers for donations to scholarship organizations that support private choice for lower income families. Business Donation Tax Credit:Tax credits given to businesses for donations to scholarship organizations that support private choice for lower income families. Benefit was pegged at $2,700 for all policies (in 2010 dollars).
What’s a Message “Frame?” Message Frame: A frame “is a central organizing idea for making sense of relevant events and suggesting what is at issue.” Frames answer the question, “Why?” Why should the public care about the issue in the first place? Why should a citizen do anything about it? Why should a politician do something about it? Why should one solution be adopted rather than another?
How Were the Frames Tested? Three messages (Frames, or emphases) were tested in separate combination with vouchers and tax credits. The test was performed like a clinical drug trial; respondents were randomly assigned to one of 6 treatment conditions or one of 2 control groups. Each frame, or emphasis, modified a basic overview of choice policy which noted that; parents will have more control achievement will increase due to competition/choice.
What Frames Were Tested? Equity Frame:School choice is presented as a way to make educational opportunities and outcomes for lower-income children more equitable. Financial Frame: School choice is presented as a way to help keep taxes low because private and other schools of choice cost less and parents spend education dollars more wisely than bureaucrats. Moral Values Frame: School choice is presented as a way to help make sure schools teach good values, because parents know best what values their children should learn in school and would be able to choose good schools that teach them.
Support for Choice Policies, By Frame(Scale from 1-Strongly Oppose, to 7-Strongly Favor; 4-Neither )
So . . . Why Does the Financial Frame Have the Most Consistent Positive Impact? What’s Driving This Response?
NOTE: These results are from before the financial crisis. It’s likely financial/cost concerns are even greater today.
What Performance Advantages are Most Important? Perceptions of Public vs. Private School Performance
Increase in Rating for Local Private Schools Compared to Rating for Local Public School
What Do the Regression Models Tell Us? The perception that Private Schools use money more efficiently than Public Schools has the biggest and most consistent positive impact on support for private choice. Perceived differences in academic achievement is second to efficiency and not always significant.
What’s Expected and Which Expectations Are Most Important? Anticipated Effects of Private Choice
Expected Effect on Property Values Doesn’t Seem to Matter . . .
Expected Effect of Private Choice Policies on Property Values in Respondent’s Area(Percent Choosing Decrease, Neither, or Increase)
Margin of Respondents Who Expect Policy to Increase Cost, Achievement & Equity(Percent Choosing Increase minus Percent Decrease)
What Do the Regression Models Tell Us? The expected effects on academic achievement has the biggest impact on support for private choice policies, followed by; The impact on cost, and The impact on educational equity.
How Do Different Frames Change What the Public Expects?
Impact of Frame on Expected Effect Policies Will Have on Educational Costs (Scale from 1-Reduce A Lot, to 7-Increase A Lot; 4-Neither )
Impact of Frame on Expected Effect Policies Will Have on Educational Achievement (Scale from 1-Reduce A Lot, to 7-Increase A Lot; 4-Neither )
Impact of Frame on Expected Effect Policies Will Have on Educational Equality (Scale from 1-Reduce A Lot, to 7-Increase A Lot; 4-Neither )
Party ID Policy Knowledge Parent/Non-Parent Demographics and Support for Private Choice Policy
Democratic Margin of Support for Policies(By Knowledge of Policy)
Democratic Margin of Support for Vouchers(By Frame & Knowledge of Vouchers)
Are Vouchers or Education Tax Credits More Popular? Targeted or Broad-Based?
Margin of Support for School Choice Policies(Percent Favor minus Oppose)
Margin of Support for Choice Policies (Percent Favor minus Opposition)
Margin of Support for Coverage Levels(Percent Support minus Opposition)
Emphasize $$ Savings & Academic Improvements Educational Equity Argument Can Help, But Also Cause Blowback! Credits Are More Popular Than Vouchers Broad-Based Coverage Is More Popular Than Targeted Conclusions