School Choice Surveys

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Four years ago, in January 2005, the Friedman Foundation published a report of a poll in Arizona. This was followed by one for Florida, in January 2006 and one for Georgia in April of 2007. Then, beginning in December 2007, with a report for the state of Illinois, a State Polling Series began to appear with more regularity.

To date that has included reports in 2008 for Nevada in January; Tennessee & Idaho in March; Oklahoma in, June; Maryland in September; and Montana in October. This year the Foundation has continued its series with publications for Oregon in January, Vermont in February and, the latest, for Rhode Island, in April.

The 37-page April report, authored by Paul DiPerna, and which is now part of a series or School Choice Surveys in the States, is online at
Partners with the Friedman Foundation for this report are the Rhode Island Scholarship Alliance and the Catholic School Office for the Diocese of Providence, both in Providence, Agudath Israel of America in New York and the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the National Catholic Educational Association in Washington, D.C.

The Rhode Island survey, conducted in late January of this year, "provides a statistical representation of the views of likely voters in Rhode Island" and involved "a total of 1,200 completed interviews…"

Key findings include:

Rhode Island’s Democrats (D), Republicans (R), and Independents (I) tend to share common views on school choice policies. For example, support for Corporate Scholarship Tax Credits is 51% (D), 53%, (R), and 54% (I); for charter schools. 53% (D), 53% (R), and 56% (I), and even for the more controversial school vouchers was 52% for Democrats, 47% for Republicans (slightly the reverse of a general perception) and 54% for Independents.

On a separate question, 83% said they would prefer choosing a school for their child from among options that would include private schools, charter schools, virtual schools, and homeschooling. This is consistent, and even reasonably close to recent findings in Vermont, 89%, Oregon, 87%, Montana, 90% and Maryland, 82%.

On specific issues within the state, 31% rate the public school system as "good" or "excellent, while 66% think public school funding is "about right" or "too high" a result that needs to be viewed along with the fact that 85% of those surveyed underestimate the actual per-pupil funding which is $13,336.

One particularly interesting result is that those with either personal or familial ties to labor/teacher unions (U) share similar opinions when compared with "non-union" voters (NU). 31% of each group rate the state school system as "good" or "excellent." 51% (U) and 57% (NU) prefer private schools over other types of schools. The state’s Corporate Scholarship Tax Credit was favored by both groups: 50% (U) and 56% (NU). Both groups support charter schools , 53% (U) and 55% (NU), and both back school vouchers, 50% (U) and 53% (NU).

These results regarding vouchers are similar to the views of likely voters in general, 52% of whom said they are favorable to using vouchers to help families pay for their child’s school tuition. Among the 73% of those who said they are familiar with vouchers, 53% of those in the 18-25 year old group were among those most favorable and were 69% of those with household incomes under $25,000. These findings are also consistent with a number of surveys separate from this one.

The great majority of the 1,200 surveyed (1,067) were K-12 parents. Some of the questions were summarized by subgroups. For example the preferences for private, public or charter schools, and homeschooling found their preferences to be 56%, 17%, 13%, and 12% respectively. 47% are familiar with virtual schools, and 32% favor them. 57% agree in principle with universal eligibility of scholarships, and 60% agree in principle with financial need-based eligibility of scholarships.

A listing of Friedman studies may be found at The Foundation is at One American Square, Suite 2420, Indianapolis, IN 46282, tel. 317-681-0745.

With the ever-lengthening list of surveys finding majority support for school choice, both in general and in particular forms, how long can elected public officials continue to block such needed and popular reforms?

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"Every year the child is coming to belong more to the state and less and less to the parent."

Ellwood P. Cubberly, former dean of the School of Education at Stanford University, writing in Conceptions of Education (1909)" p. 16, Perspective, May 2006, A Public Policy Journal, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs