Survey: Parents overwhelmingly support school choice, distrust federal government

American families aren’t accessing the school types they prefer and do not trust the federal government, according to results of an annual report “Schooling America”, produced by EdChoice, a national nonprofit organization that promotes state-based educational choice programs.

The majority polled overwhelmingly support Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), tax credit scholarships, school vouchers and charter schools.

The survey asked public school parents and the general public about their views of the four types of educational systems in America: public schools, charter schools, private schools, and home schooling. It also asked respondents about their views of the federal government’s role in K-12 education.

The majority of parents are involved with public school districts, the report found, with 89 percent having children who attended public school for at least one year. This percentage mirrors the data reported by the U.S. Department of Education, the report notes. Current public school parents are generally satisfied but at least one-third reported “major issues” with their schools’ responsiveness, communication and support outside the classroom.

EdChoice, which argues that families, not bureaucrats, are best equipped to make K-12 schooling decisions for their children, found that the majority of those polled do not trust the federal government when it comes to education.

According to the survey, only 10 percent of Americans said they trust the federal government to do what is right “always or most of the time.” When asked what the government could focus on, a majority suggested that it fund access to a quality education for military families (72 percent), fund access to a quality education for students with disabilities (68 percent), protect students’ civil rights (66 percent), fund access to a quality education for all students (64 percent) and fund access to a quality education for low-income students (61 percent).

Rural and small town Americans expressed greater dissatisfaction with the federal government’s role in education. Only 41 percent said it should play a major role in K-12 education, compared to 52 percent of urbanites.

When it comes to access to educational opportunities, the report found that American families “aren’t accessing the schooling types they prefer. More than eight out of 10 American students attend public district schools, but in our interviews, only about three out of 10 parents said they would choose a district school as a first preference.”

A plurality of current and former school parents (40 percent) said they would send their child to a private school if they had the opportunity to choose. Slightly more than one-third of parents (36 percent) would choose a district school. Nearly equal proportions said they prefer a public charter school (13 percent) or want to home-school their child (10 percent).

“Far too few people know their options – and far too many parents are unable to access the schooling type they’d prefer if resources were not an issue,” EdChoice President and CEO Robert Enlow said in a statement.

Parents who home-schooled their children expressed the highest levels of satisfaction (86 percent) among the four school types. Parents were more than twice as likely to say they were “very satisfied” with charter schools and private schools (43 percent and 47 percent, respectively), than district schools (26 percent).

The survey also found that support remains high for school choice options, with vouchers, tax-credit scholarships and charter schools all garnering favorability over 60 percent.

“We are encouraged by continued support for educational options, including vouchers, tax-credit scholarships and charter schools. We are particularly pleased to see high levels of support for education savings accounts or ESAs,” Enlow said.

When given a description of ESAs, Americans are four times more likely to support them (74 percent) than oppose them (18 percent), according to the survey. These numbers are the highest and lowest among those reported during the six years EdChoice has been polling Americans about ESAs.

Over the past two years, ESA support has been greater than 70 percent, the report states. Those polled prefer universal access to ESAs more than means-tested eligibility, which is based solely on financial need.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents support school vouchers, compared to one third who oppose them.

“The large margin of support for vouchers,” the report suggests, “indicates Americans are twice as likely to support as oppose vouchers.”

Two out of three Americans (66 percent) express support for tax-credit scholarships, compared to roughly one in four (24 percent) who oppose them. Ten percent of respondents did not express an opinion about tax-credit scholarships. Six out of 10 Americans (61 percent) said they support public charter schools, while 29 percent oppose them.

“The wide margin of support indicates a favorability twice as large as the opposition,” the report states.

This article was first published by Watchdog.org.

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