Focus | Broad-based, bipartisan support for school choice

Focus | Broad-based, bipartisan support for school choice


Story by Chris Graham
With AFP Video

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents support school-choice policies including legislative initiatives that would create tax-credit scholarships and school vouchers, according to a new poll released by a coalition of groups that back school choice.

The poll, commissioned by The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and conducted by Braun Research Inc., surveyed through live interviews 1,203 likely Virginia voters in the Oct. 1-5 time frame. Sixty-two percent of those polled think of Virginia’s public-school system as “good” or “excellent,” but similar majorities also back tax credits for private-school scholarships, school vouchers and special-needs vouchers, and when parents of current K-12 were asked were they would prefer to send their children, public schools beat out private schools by only a narrow 40 percent-to-39 percent margin.

Of note there is that 90 percent of children in Virginia are educated in public schools. Nine percent are educated in private schools.

“That 50-point gap between the 90 percent whose children attend public schools and the 40 percent who say they would choose private schools does shed some light on a major disconnect between voter preferences and family preferences for schooling and however the system works. The system, it appears, is inhibiting those kinds of decisions and choices on education,” said Paul DiPerna, the research director at The Friedman Foundation and the author of a study on attitudes toward school choice in Virginia that was released today in conjunction with the release of the poll numbers.

AFP editor Chris Graham on school choice

Tax credits for donations to private-school scholarship funds enjoy noticeable bipartisan support – with 68 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of independents and 64 percent of Democrats polled saying they would back legislation providing tax credits for private-school scholarships. On school vouchers, 67 percent of Republicans favor the general concept of having the state provide vouchers to parents to use at public or private schools of their own choosing, with 58 percent of independents backing vouchers and 53 percent of Democrats backing the voucher concept.

20th District State Del. Chris Saxman, the founder of School Choice Virginia, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for school-choice legislation in the Virginia General Assembly, thinks the poll numbers could buttress policy change by emboldening legislators who might be on the fence politically.

“The senators and legislators that I talk to on this issue will say, Chris, believe me, I agree with you, you’re right on the policy, I just can’t vote for it,” said Saxman, whose term in the state legislature ends in January.

“These numbers suggest, look, a majority of Virginians support this. You might not win an election because of this, but you’re not going to lose one at the same time. You’re not going to get kicked out of office because you gave more kids more choices on education,” Saxman said.

Special-needs vouchers enjoy the strongest support in the polling – with 79 percent of those surveyed saying they would support vouchers for parents of special-needs children.

Read the report online –




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