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Despite Crusade Against School Choice, Most Americans Are Still in Favor

Most Americans support wider private-school options for all families, according to the newly released 2018 Education Next Poll.

This finding flies in the face of the highly politicized onslaught to discredit U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration for being, among other things, “out of touch ... with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities,” as National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García put it.

Based on the poll, however, it appears that opponents of educational choice like the NEA are the ones who’ve lost touch—big time.

Fully 54 percent of all respondents in Education Next’s nationally representative poll favor giving all public-school parents the option of sending their children to private schools with government helping to pay tuition.

Not only has overall support for universal private-school options increased by 9 percentage points since 2017, bipartisan support has also increased. Among Republicans support increased 10 points since last year to 64 percent. Among Democrats it increased 7 points to 47 percent.

Majorities of Americans also support universal private-school choice regardless of their racial or ethnic backgrounds, including 53 percent each among black and white Americans, as well as 67 percent of Hispanic Americans.

The only group with a majority opposed are teachers, whose support dropped from 40 percent last year to 34 percent this year—a stark contrast to the 61 percent of parents who favor universal private-school choice.

Compared to support for private-school options for all families, support for wider publicly funded options targeting just some families is 11 points lower at 43 percent. However, context matters.

When poll authors replaced the phrase “wider choice” with the word “voucher,” support for making all public-school families eligible dropped 10 percentage points. Yet there was no significant change in support when it came to offering low-income families private-school vouchers.

Vicki E. Alger is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the book Failure: The Federal "Misedukation" of America’s Children.

New from Vicki E. Alger!
FAILURE: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children
Education policy has long been mired in controversies, often with opposing sides missing the mark. Failure helps us step back from the skirmish du jour and redirects our focus to the big picture, showing us what’s gone wrong over the decades and the institutional causes of these failures. It also offers a bold blueprint for returning the federal government to its constitutional role and for cultivating an educational system that meets the needs of students and parents, rather than bureaucrats.