School Choice Is Important in the Black Community

July 30, 2013

In March 2013, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) commissioned a survey of Black voters in four Southern states to gauge attitudes and opinions within the Black community on education reform, charter schools and the need for parental choice in their community. The findings indicate strong support among this significant segment of the population for greater freedom in K-12 education, widespread recognition of the need for better quality schools, and openness to charter schools and publicly funded scholarships as reform vehicles.

BAEO targeted Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi because of the high number of low-income and working-class Black families in these states who would potentially benefit from parental choice policies and other education reforms that have been the subject of recent and ongoing debate. Among the respondents, selected at random and broadly diverse in age and income:

  • Eighty-five percent to 89 percent in each state agreed that government should provide parents with as many choices as possible to ensure that their child receives a good education.
  • Fifty-five percent to 58 percent in each state (and 73 percent in the New Orleans area) said they would not send their children to the public schools to which they are currently assigned if they had a choice.
  • At least 50 percent in each state (and as many as seven in 10 in Mississippi) expressed support for charter schools.
  • In Alabama, even among those who rated their school excellent, 36 percent would opt out if they had the choice.
  • Less surprising, 74 percent of Black voters in Alabama who rated their community schools poorly expressed the desire to send their children elsewhere.
  • In Mississippi and Kentucky, a majority of Black voters rated the quality of public education as only fair, while just 14 percent in both states rated their local school systems as excellent.

The survey data underscore the fundamental appeal of parent choice and transformational education reform as concepts within the Black community.

  • The findings are particularly relevant in the context of education reform debates unfolding in the target states.
  • Alabama and Kentucky are among the eight states in the nation without charter schools; Mississippi just passed a law paving the way for its first charters.
  • Louisiana is implementing the expansion of a publicly-funded scholarship program to extend education choice more broadly statewide as well as serving as an example of high quality charter schools in New Orleans.

Source: "A Survey Report on Education Reform, Charter Schools, and the Desire for Parental Choice in the Black Community," Black Alliance for Educational Options, 2013.

 

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