School Choice & Charters

Americans Support Charters, Oppose Vouchers, Poll Finds

By Katie Ash — August 21, 2013 2 min read
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This year’s annual PDK/Gallup Poll on American attitudes toward public schools found that while charter schools enjoy broad support, many of those surveyed—70 percent—oppose vouchers for private school tuition.

The survey, which was based on responses from about 1,000 people, found that nearly 70 percent of those surveyed support public charter schools. And a little over half—52 percent—said they thought students in charter schools receive a better education than those in regular public schools.

But on the question of vouchers, 70 percent of those surveyed said they opposed allowing taxpayer dollars to cover families’ private tuition costs—the highest proportion of opposition to vouchers in the history of the survey and an increase of 15 percent points from last year alone. (See the image below for the exact wording of the question.)

The Friedman Foundation for Education Choice, which advocates for the use of vouchers, said in an email statement to Education Week that “compared with findings from other recent surveys on school vouchers, the PDK/Gallup poll is an outlier. Their particular school voucher question, which does not even explicitly say or define ‘voucher,’ has been criticized by respected researchers for its wording and for that omission.”

When it comes to homeschooling children, the majority of the survey participants (60 percent) support parents’ rights to homeschool their kids, and the vast majority feel that homeschooled children should be eligible for student services offered by their public school.

For instance, 90 percent agree that homeschooled children should be allowed to access special education courses, 75 percent think homeschooled children should be able to attend public school part-time, and 80 percent feel that homeschooled students should be able to participate in their public school’s athletic programs.

Before the survey was even officially released, the Center for Education Reform came out in opposition to the survey itself. In a statement the center’s president, Jeanne Allen, said she “expects that the 2013 poll will again feature poorly designed questions, potentially leading to a misrepresentation of how the public feels about school choice, charter schools, and other issues related to education reform.”

But some, such as the National Coalition for Public Education, which opposes vouchers, have praised the results of the survey. Sasha Pudelski, a co-chair of the coalition said in a press release, “These results tell us that the American public knows something that many politicians do not: taxpayer-funded vouchers are bad public policy.”

In addition to the results focused on school choice, the survey asked a broad range of questions about public education, including many about the Common Core State Standards. My colleague Lesli Maxwell has an in-depth take on the broader findings of the survey here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.