Poll: Support for School Choice Crosses Partisan Divide

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

Families Willing to Sacrifice for Options, Demand Action from Lawmakers

January 22, 2019, Harrisburg, Pa.—Two-thirds of likely 2020 voters support school choice policies, according to a nationwide survey released by the American Federation for Children in partnership with the left-leaning polling firm Beck Research. The survey found a 4 percent increase in school choice favorability, which now stands at 67 percent, from the previous year. Healthy support for education options bridged racial, economic, political, and generational backgrounds.

“Voters of every race, age, and political party support school choice programs,” explained Marc LeBlond, Commonwealth Foundation senior policy analyst. “They want lawmakers to refocus education policy on students. Simply throwing more dollars at a one-size-fits-all system will not improve outcomes for the next generation. Parents want and deserve options to find what best fits their child’s unique educational needs.”

Latinos voiced the highest level of support at 73 percent, while 68 percent of whites and 67 percent of African Americans approved. Among generational groups, Millennials led the way at 75 percent while support dropped slightly with age down to 63 percent among the silent generation.

Partisan distinctions provided a starker separation with 80 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Independents, and only 56 percent of Democrats favoring school choice options.

(Graphic: AFC Nationwide School Choice Survey)

These findings give further weight to a growing number of polls showing high support for school choice, including among three quarters of Pennsylvania voters.

“Not only do parents want choice, they’re willing to sacrifice to get it,” continued LeBlond. “Half of parents are willing to drive over 25 miles and nearly half would switch jobs or move over 10 miles away for better education opportunities for their kids. Programs like Pennsylvania’s existing tax credit scholarships and new proposals like education scholarship accounts can ease these burdens on families significantly.”

Commonwealth Foundation recently highlighted Gesu School, a Pre-K through 8th grade private school in North Philadelphia. Gesu School provides children from some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city with an education that local public schools cannot. Parents rely on Pennsylvania’s tax credit scholarship programs to help pay the tuition.

“Tax credit scholarships are critical for our school and our children,” said Gesu School President and CEO Bryan Carter. “We are a tuition-based school, and every family pays something, but since many of our students reside in the poorest zip codes of Philadelphia, families struggle to pay even our modest tuition.  So, to be able to continue to offer the Gesu School experience to children and parents, the private donations that come in through EITC and OSTC are a necessity.”

But, in 2018, nearly 53,000 applications to Pennsylvania’s EITC and OSTC scholarship programs were denied due to arbitrary caps on the programs.

On Jan. 23, LeBlond will be testifying before the Pa. House Democratic Policy Committee in Philadelphia to discuss education funding and outcomes. During his testimony, he aims to make clear just how crucial making progress on school choice is to Pennsylvania families.

“Families across the country, including in Pennsylvania, are gathering together this week for National School Choice Week to demand easier access to quality education options,” said LeBlond. “Lawmakers have a responsibility to meet this need, and school choice policies are the best and quickest solutions.”

Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Michael Torres at 850-619-2737 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
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