The American Federation for Children has just released its fourth annual National School Choice poll, and the results should be heartening for supporters of education reform and school choice. Not only do a majority of Americans continue to support school choice, but that support spans a wide variety of demographic groups and political views.
The study collected responses from 1,100 likely November 2018 voters, and it was conducted by Democratic research firm Beck Research, which has polled in the past for the National Education Association teachers’ union. According to the survey, 63 percent of Americans support the concept of school choice — down 5 percent from last year — while 33 percent say they oppose it.
Minority Americans also tend to support school choice, including 72 percent of Latinos and 66 percent of African Americans. About six in ten white Americans support school choice. Meanwhile, majorities of every political group support school choice: 75 percent of Republicans, 62 percent of independents, and 54 percent of Democrats, along with 64 percent of Millennials.
Nearly all voters surveyed said they support private school choice in some form. Eighty-six percent of voters believe that publicly funded vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and education savings accounts (ESAs) should be available to those who would like to use them.
In fact, while ESAs are a fairly new form of school choice, they continue to increase in popularity among voters, 75 percent of whom now say they favor ESAs. That figure includes 70 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents, and 81 percent of Republicans. Education savings accounts have been pioneered in a few states and are funded by state governments, which deposit a certain amount of money into each family’s account based on a formula, and the child’s parents can use those funds for a wide variety of education-related expenses, such as private-school tuition, college-savings plans, online classes, and tutoring.
Meanwhile, the idea of a federal tax-credit scholarship remains popular. More than two-thirds of voters surveyed said they would favor a K-12 education tax-credit program, including 55 percent of Democratic respondents. Tax-credit scholarships, which have already been highly successful in several states, allow businesses to receive a tax credit for donating to non-profits that fund scholarships for students to attend the school of their choice.
According to the study, vouchers remain the least popular form of school choice, with just 47 percent support, a decrease of four percentage points from last year’s study. This year marks the first time that the AFC study found a higher percentage of Americans opposed to vouchers than in favor of them. Support for public charter schools (72 percent) and special-needs scholarships (83 percent), though, has remained fairly consistent.
“Almost all voters want private school choice options available in some form, public charter schools remain quite popular,” says John Schilling, AFC president, “and the concept of school choice is favorable across the nation’s ideological, geographic, and racial and ethnic backgrounds like no other issue in 2018.”
While overall support for school choice did dip slightly from the previous year’s poll, it is still clearly a winning issue among a majority of American voters, and most forms of school choice retain strong support on both sides of the aisle. It is also worth noting that teachers’ unions and their political allies routinely spend in the realm of $100 million annually to discredit school choice as a valid option for American families — and yet school choice remains largely popular.