New poll shows voters want charter schools and other alternatives to regular public schools

March 13, 2012

Today a new poll confirms that 60% of voters favor allowing charter public schools in Washington.  This poll, from the Freedom Foundation and Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, confirms Washington Policy Center's recent poll findings. 

This new poll provides additional information about public attitudes towards their regular public schools.  35% of the public would choose a private school if they could. 14% of the public would choose a charter public school if they could. 7% of the public would choose homeschooling.  This means that 56% of the public would make some other choice than their regular public schools if they could.  Only 40% would choose their regular public school.

Washington voters favor tax credits, savings accounts, even vouchers to provide financial relief to families who would like to send their children to private school. 

Here is the press release of the poll:

New Poll Shows Washington Voters Support School Choice
Majority would prefer options outside traditional public schools

OLYMPIA—Education reform may be causing strife among Democrat and Republican lawmakers, but among their constituents, support for reform is strong, according to a public-opinion poll released today.

The “Washington K–12 & School Choice Survey,” co-released by the Washington state-based Freedom Foundation and Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice headquartered in Indiana, found Washington voters favor charter schools by a margin of 60 percent to 23 percent. Washington is one of nine states that do not allow charter schools, which are tuition-free public schools freed from many state and local regulations in exchange for stronger accountability. Neighbors Idaho and Oregon both have charter schools.

“Although support was strongest among Washington’s Republicans and Independents, 51 percent of Democrat voters surveyed also favored charter schools,” Jonathan Bechtle, CEO of the Freedom Foundation, said. “This is a strong signal that voters want more options for their children, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach.”

The two pro-reform organizations also noted what they called a “disconnect” between where Washington students go to school under current state policies and where their parents would like to send them if they had school choice.

“Fewer than seven percent of Washington students attend private schools; however, 35 percent of voters would prefer those schools as their first option,” Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation, said. “It should come as no surprise then that Washington voters favor tax credits, savings accounts, and even vouchers to provide financial relief to families who would like their children to attend private schools.”

When asked what type of school they would select for their children, just 40 percent selected “regular public school.” Private (35 percent), charters (14 percent), and homeschool (7 percent) accounted for 56 percent of the other responses. Notably, 52 percent of polled voters said Washington education is on the “wrong track” whereas only 31 percent thought it is going in the “right direction.”

The poll’s findings also documented widespread misperception about school funding. Nearly half of those polled thought funding was less than $8,000 per student. Only one in five could accurately guess anywhere near the actual funding amount of $9,700.  Without knowing the current level of funding, 56 percent thought education spending is too low. But when informed of the actual funding level, the number of those who thought it was “too low” dropped to 42 percent.

A summary of survey results and a description of the methodology are available at www.edchoice.org/WA-Survey.