School Choice & Charters

Poll Finds Support for Vouchers Wanes if Public Schools Affected

By Karla Scoon Reid — October 03, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Although the public appears to be equally divided over school vouchers, backing for the idea wanes as supporters are told that vouchers could decrease funding for public schools, a national poll released last week says.

Officials of the National School Boards Association said they commissioned the poll to look more closely at opinions on vouchers beyond how many people back the school choice option and how many do not. The NSBA opposes the use of public money for vouchers to send students to private schools.

Zogby International, a Utica, N.Y.-based pollster, interviewed 1,211 adults by telephone in May, including an oversample of 301 African-Americans. The margin of error overall is plus or minus 3 percentage points, and 5.7 percentage points for the African-Americans sampled.

Equal proportions of the people polled, or 48 percent, said they opposed and supported vouchers. But the poll found that those who “strongly oppose” vouchers (32 percent) outpaced those who “strongly favor” the option (24 percent).

For the African-Americans surveyed, 41 percent “strongly oppose” vouchers, more than double the 19 percent who said they “strongly favor” them.

With an issue like vouchers, which has split people in past surveys, those with “greater intensity” about the topic are more likely to vote and work harder to press their case, said John J. Zogby, the president and chief operating officer of Zogby International.

To Marc Egan, the director of the NSBA’s voucher-strategy center, the poll’s results suggest that support for vouchers is “paper thin.” Especially, he added, when those in favor consider the negative impact voucher programs could have on tax revenues targeted for public schools.

Of the voucher supporters surveyed, 39 percent said they would withdraw their support if the program would result in the loss of public school tax dollars.

Among supporters and opponents alike, the poll found that 80 percent to 90 percent of the respondents wanted private schools that accept vouchers to be held publicly accountable for academic standards, admission requirements, financial disclosure, and test scores.

Those polling results put voucher supporters in a bind, Mr. Egan contended. People are weighing what vouchers would mean for their own children as well as their impact on the community as a whole, he said.

“What [voucher advocates] are proposing time and again is clearly not popular with the public,” he said, noting that voters in Michigan and California soundly rejected voucher initiatives in their states last year.

Distorting Facts?

Clark Neily, a staff lawyer with the Institute for Justice, countered that the poll fails to capture the feelings of parents whose children attend low-performing schools and would benefit most from tuition vouchers to send students to private schools. The Washington-based legal-advocacy group represents families participating in the Cleveland and Milwaukee voucher programs.

The poll showed that 57 percent of African-Americans with children under the age of 17 backed vouchers. But 55 percent of those respondents said they would withdraw their support if vouchers resulted in public schools’ losing tax revenue.

Mr. Neily called the decrease of tax dollars for public schools a “distortion of the facts,” arguing that most voucher programs spend less money per student than the public schools.

For a more balanced picture, he said, the people surveyed also should have been asked if they would rather spend their tax dollars on “unsafe public schools” that had made little progress in teaching children, or spend the money for vouchers to send students to private schools.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s agreement last week to hear a case testing whether publicly funded vouchers can be used at religious schools in Cleveland also will shift the debate from a legal question to a focus on the program’s benefits, Mr. Neily suggested.

Although the Alexandria, Va.- based NSBA believes that the poll puts the burden on voucher supporters to prove such programs’ value, Mr. Neily disagreed. “The pressure is on [voucher opponents] to tell a parent whose child is trapped in a failing school why they should not use a voucher,” he contended.

"[Voucher advocates] do represent an appealing and understandable core value,” Mr. Zogby, the pollster, said. “But when a broad range of other values are considered in all of this, they are kind of swimming upstream.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Why Jay-Z Is a Key Figure in the School Voucher Debate
Jay-Z's backing of school vouchers in Pennsylvania has public education advocates worried it will divert funds.
6 min read
Jay-Z arrives at the premiere of "The Book of Clarence" on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Jay-Z is putting his weight behind an effort to fund private school vouchers in Philadelphia. The entertainment mogul’s Roc Nation announced it is funding a campaign in June 2024 to drum up support for the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success.
Jay-Z arrives at the premiere of "The Book of Clarence" on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Jay-Z is putting his weight behind an effort to fund private school vouchers in Philadelphia. The entertainment mogul’s Roc Nation announced it is funding an outreach campaign to drum up support for the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success.
Richard Shotwell/Invision via AP
School Choice & Charters Video Private School Choice: A Video Explainer
We're tracking the proliferation of school choice policies around the country. Here's how to get up to speed.
2 min read
School Choice & Charters Opinion What Would Religious Charter Schools Mean for Public Education?
Discriminating and proselytizing on the taxpayer dime will never be acceptable, writes Kevin G. Welner.
Kevin G. Welner
5 min read
A green apple with a cross shaped stem in between red apples.
Richard Mia for Education Week
School Choice & Charters Private School Choice Continues to Spread. 3 Things to Know
New research shows private schools increase tuition when states send public funds for parents to spend on private education.
6 min read
Image of private school kids outside in the school yard.
E+