NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Ignorant On School Choice Issues

November 17, 1999

An opinion poll completed this summer found that people are woefully uninformed about such concepts as tuition vouchers, charter schools and other educational choice issues. The survey of 1,200 adults and 833 local political, civic and business leaders was conducted by the group Public Agenda.

Even respondents in such cities as Milwaukee and Cleveland -- where school choice programs are already in place -- knew little more about vouchers and charters that citizens in other parts of the country.

Once people were briefed on how vouchers and charters work, they were supportive of both, the study found.

  • When asked if all families, regardless of income, should be eligible for vouchers if their states began a voucher program, 72 percent said yes.
  • Children should be able to use vouchers at religious schools, 78 percent said.
  • Sending their child to a charter school appealed to 46 percent, while 33 percent said they probably or definitely would not.
  • A majority said private schools provide a better education and do a better job of teaching academic skills, while 74 percent said they do a better job of disciplining students.

Nearly four out of five parents strongly agreed that they should have the right to choose the school they want their child to attend.

If money were not an issue, 42 percent would prefer to send their children to a public school, 34 percent would pick a private religious school and 21 percent said their would choose a private nonreligious school.

Clint Bolick, litigation director at the Institute for Justice -- which has defended voucher programs in several states, said the survey showed that school choice proponents have much work to do in getting their message out.

Source: Andrea Billups, "Poll Finds Ignorance on School Choice," Washington Times, and Tamara Henry, "Public Not Up on Vouchers, Charter Schools," USA Today, both November 17, 1999.


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