Poll Finds Spike in Support for School Choice

Every year, Education Next conducts a nationwide poll of public opinion on various education-related issues. The last couple editions of that poll have shown some discouraging trends in a handful of areas, including some forms of school choice. This year’s poll results, by contrast, are far more positive.

The less-than-spectacular poll results in recent years were not terribly surprising given how polarized the political environment around education has become. However, at least some of those results now appear to have been largely temporary reflections of the political mood at the time. Here are some key results from this year’s poll:

A majority of the public supports government-funded private school choice programs. Fifty-four percent of the public supports expanding educational options for public school parents by “allowing them to enroll their children in private schools instead, with government helping to pay the tuition.” This reflects an increase of 9 percent from the 2017 poll. Opposition to this concept has also fallen from 37 percent to 31 percent since last year.

Notably, these results seem to reflect support for universal rather than income-specific choice programs. Public support for income-based voucher programs remains at 43 percent—a number driven largely by low support among white families. Strong majorities of African American (56 percent) and Hispanic (62 percent) families support the concept of income-based choice provided by government funding.

Income-based scholarship tax credit programs remain the most popular form of school choice. Fifty-seven percent of the general public and 62 percent of parents support policies that provide tax credits to individuals and corporations who donate private money toward scholarships for low-income students. Both Republicans and Democrats favor such policies, with levels of support at 58 percent for both parties.

By comparison, just 43 percent of the public reported a favorable view of public charter schools. As mentioned above, only 43 percent of the public supports income-based, government-funded scholarship programs.

ACE Scholarships currently participates in two scholarship tax credit programs targeted at lower-income students, one in Kansas and one in Louisiana. In Louisiana, ACE is the largest nonprofit scholarship-granting organization in the state and plans to serve approximately 1,400 students in the 2018-19 school year.

There’s a whole lot more to unpack in this year’s Ed Next poll if you are interested, including opinions on teacher pay, collective bargaining, and the types of fees addressed by the landmark Janus decision earlier this year. You can review the full results here.