School Choice & Charters

Most Americans Don’t Know Much About School Choice. But Many Like It.

By Arianna Prothero — May 14, 2017 1 min read
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Most Americans admit they don’t know that much about charter schools and school vouchers, but many support these policies anyway, according to a new survey by AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Although earlier surveys have found similar results (here’s one I wrote about in 2014 by PDK/Gallup), these findings are particularly interesting now, given how much attention school choice has received under President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

During the campaign, Trump pledged to spend $20 billion on a school choice initiative, while DeVos, best known as a billionaire who has long been an influential philanthropic booster of school choice. Her support for things such as online charter schools and vouchers for private schools helped fuel fierce backlash from Democrats over her nomination, which was among the most contentious of Trump’s cabinet nominees. Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a historic tie breaking vote after two Republican Senators joined Democrats to vote against DeVos’ confirmation.

Ed Week Explainer: What Are School Vouchers and How Do They Work?

Despite that political drama which unfolded in February, and the rapid growth of charter schools and vouchers in some states and cities, 58 percent of respondents to the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research’s April survey said they have heard little or nothing about charter schools. Sixty-six percent of respondents had heard little to nothing about school vouchers.

“That’s pretty remarkable given the growth and high-profile politics around charters,” Drew University Education Professor Patrick McGuin told the Associated Press. “As much as policymakers are talking the heck about this, the debate really hasn’t permeated the general public’s discussion yet.”

Meanwhile, 47 percent of respondents said they favored the idea of having more charter schools while 43 percent favored the idea of distributing more vouchers, at least to low-income students.

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