Public Opinion of School Choice in 2012
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Public Opinion of School Choice in 2012

Subsection of Annual Privatization Report 2013: Education

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Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup released survey results from their 44th annual poll of the public’s attitudes toward public schools.1 The survey includes telephone interviews of a sample of over 1,000 Americans and asks questions ranging from grading schools and confidence in teachers, to finances and bullying. Also included in the survey are questions about school choice, charters, vouchers and parent options.

Results from the 2012 poll showed that public opinion of charter schools continues to be positive. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed favor public charter schools, down from a peak of 70 percent in 2011, but still well above the 51 percent who favored public charter schools in 2008. Support for private school vouchers jumped 10 percentage points in 2012, to a total of 44 percent of those surveyed.

A second national survey, commissioned by the American Federation for Children (AFC) and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO) and conducted by Beck Research, shows additional evidence of public support for school choice.2 Figure 1 below summarizes national survey results on school choice.

Figure 1: National Survey Results on School Choice

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice sponsored the Moms and Schools Survey, a nationwide public opinion survey on school choice.3 Braun Research, Inc. surveyed over 1,000 participants with questions regarding grading schools (districts, charter, private), school type preferences, and school vouchers. This survey found that 56 percent of Americans support voucher programs, and that nearly twice as many “strongly favor” them (29%) as “strongly oppose” them (16%).

The Moms and Schools Survey differed from others outlined here in that it also asked its participants for their preferred school type: traditional public, private, charter, or home school. Figure 2 below summarizes the school type preference results from the survey.

Figure 2: School Type Preferences in 2012

Results show that the majority of Americans prefer a traditional public school. However, nearly one in three would prefer a private school. National private school enrollment is only approximately 10 percent of all school-aged children, suggesting a greater number of adults would prefer their child to be enrolled in private school. This relationship is also found when comparing the percentage of students enrolled in charters nationwide (5%) versus the percentage of adults who answered that they would prefer a charter school. Additional results show support for increasing eligibility for student vouchers and scholarships. An overwhelming majority of Americans (68%) prefer universal access to student vouchers and scholarships, compared to access solely based on financial need.

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1 W. Bushaw and S. Lopez, “Public Education in the United States: A Nation Divided”, (Arlington: Phi Delta Kappa/ Gallup Poll, 2012).

2 What Public Opinion Says About School Choice, (Washington: American Federation for Children, 2012).

3 P. DiPerna, Moms and Schools Survey: Nationwide Public Opinion on Schooling, (Indianapolis: The Friedmand Foundation for Educational Choice, 2012).