Columnist : Lincoln Institute

Pulse Poll finds 72% Support Choice Among Public Schools

Harrisburg, PA — A Lincoln Institute APulse Poll conducted in the City of Philadelphia earlier this month found 72% of voters support giving parents the right to choose which public school their children should attend.

Support for school choice was strongest among black voters, 74% of whom said they wanted the option of choosing where their children attend schools, 70% of white voters said they back school choice.  Philadelphia Republican voters support school choice by a 78% to 15% margin.  Sixty-nine percent of Democrats said they want school choice rights, while 23% voiced opposition.

When the question was expanded to give parents the right to choose among public AND private schools, 66% continued to support school choice.  Support for public and private school choice was stronger among white voters, 68% of whom support extending choice to private schools, while 63% of black voters approved of including private schools among school choice options.

Extending school choice to faith-based schools also received support from a majority of the voters surveyed.  In answer to the question: Do you favor or oppose a voucher system where by parents would get money from the government to send their children to any school of their choice?  56% of voters said they would favor such a system compared to 36% who were in opposition.

Voters in the survey clearly feel the problems being experienced by City of Philadelphia schools will not be solved by money alone, said Lowman Henry, Chairman of the Lincoln Institute.  Only 15% of the voters surveyed felt a lack of money was the problem while 40% said the schools are poorly run.

Henry said the school choice findings were consistent with past survey questions on the issue asked by the Lincoln Institute.  A September 1998 survey found 59% of voters in Cumberland, Dauphin and York counties supported giving parents the right to send their children to public, private or parochial schools.  In a poll conducted in 11 southwestern Pennsylvania counties (including Allegheny) in September of 1997, 69% said they supported a school choice plan giving parents the options of public, private or religious schools.

Among other finding in the Philadelphia poll:

 *** Seventy-seven percent feel the state government should pay a greater share of local education costs.

*** When it comes to teacher salaries, 13% said public school teachers are paid too much, 33% said they are paid about the right amount, 37% said their pay is too low.

*** Fourteen percent said too much money is being spent on public education in Pennsylvania today, 18% said about the right amount is being spent to educate students, and 56% said not enough money is being spent on public education.

The Pulse Poll of voters in the City of Philadelphia was conducted on June 3 and June 7, 1999 for the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. by Precision Marketing, Inc. of Easton, Pennsylvania.  A total of 316 voters were surveyed.  The poll has a margin of error of +/-5.5% at a 95% confidence level.

The Lincoln Institute in a Harrisburg-based non-profit educational foundation which conducts public opinion research on key statewide and local public policy issues.