Thursday, July 12, 2012

Study Shows Support for School Choice, Accountability, and Teachers

Researchers from Harvard University and the University of Mississippi recently measured support for education reform—including school choice—by both the general public and teachers, according to newly-released data. Published in The Forum, researchers (including Paul E. Peterson of Harvard University, who spoke at the AFC 2012 National Policy Summit) found that 70 percent of the general public supported various types of educational options.

In the realm of school choice, 70 percent of the general public support allowing scholarship tax credit programs and charter schools to operate.  And a majority of respondents support vouchers and half support means-tested vouchers.  Teachers also responded favorably to school choice options, with a majority of teachers supporting scholarship tax credit programs, charter schools, and online education.  According to the study, parents support school choice more than non-parents when it comes to vouchers, scholarship tax credit programs, charter schools, and online courses.

And here's a finding that we're especially excited to see: Democrats and Republicans had no statistical difference in their support of school choice options—and both equally supporting scholarship tax credit programs.

In addition, African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to support school choice than whites.  Supporting that recent finding are results from a poll released earlier this year from the American Federation for Children and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options showing that education ranks as the second-most important issue to Latino voters in the upcoming presidential election.  The poll also showed that a total of 85 percent of voters and 91 percent of Latinos think vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs should be available in some form, while majorities of likely voters and Latinos also support specific school choice proposals as well. 

But school choice isn’t the only area that showed interesting results.  According to the study, the general public strongly supports accountability.  When asked about requiring annual testing, 88 percent of the general public supported the idea. 

The study also looked at general views of teachers.  And the results are just what one would expect: teachers are, rightly, held in high regard.  The authors write:

It is not only in the movies that educators are beloved.  Unlike lawyers, bankers, used-car dealers, and state legislators, teachers maintain a superb reputation.  We all remember at least one who had a decisively positive impact on our lives.  We see them as selfless members of a helping profession.  Most Americans say that teachers have “very great prestige,” an accolade otherwise given by a majority of the public only to firefighters, scientists, doctors, nurses, and military officers.

Also demonstrated in the study—without surprise—is affluent Americans have fewer complaints about the performance of their local public schools.  In fact, the study states: “[A]ffluent Americans…may differ in their views of education policy in part because they are more likely to have located themselves in an area in which public school performance is less of a concern.”  In other words, wealthy Americans can afford to live in areas with great public schools, while lower-income families often cannot.  A strong reason for Americans to support—and a majority of non-teachers do—means-tested vouchers.

Polling shows the strong support for education reform and specifically school choice.  An upcoming polling report by the American Federation for Children will demonstrate the strong levels of support in states around the country and nationally.  Make sure you check it out.

The study surveyed a representative sample of the general public with an oversampling of public school teachers and other select groups.  Knowledge Networks conducted the survey between April 15 and May 4, 2011.  The survey polled approximately 1,100 adults and oversamples of approximately 700 of the following groups: public school teachers, parents of school-aged children, African Americans, Hispanics, and affluent adults (defined as having at least a bachelor’s degree and an income in the top ten percent in their state of residence). 

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

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