- 92 percent of respondents believe parents should have the ability to choose their child’s school
- Support for charter schools and Opportunity Scholarships are stronger among blacks than whites
- School choice programs have a wide and growing base of support across races, political ideology and party affiliation
North Carolinians like school choice and they want more of it. Support for school choice is strong across political parties and racial demographics, and voters want lawmakers to continue to expand educational options for families.
Those are the major findings of a January 2019 Civitas School Choice Poll whose results were released to coincide with National School Choice Week.
The poll of 804 registered voters in North Carolina, age 25-54, was conducted Jan. 15 – Jan. 18, 2019. The results provide plenty of good news for school choice supporters. Poll results overwhelmingly affirm the major tenets of school choice and underscore strong support for current North Carolina school choice programs, while signaling to legislators they need to do more to expand educational options for families.
Some of the major findings include:
Parents should decide the major education decisions regarding their children
School choice is based on the premise parents know their children best, have the most invested in their success and know what the best environment for their children is to flourish. Poll results affirmed this fundamental belief.
A staggering 92 percent of respondents agreed with the statement; “Parents should have the ability to choose where their child attends school.” Seventy percent strongly agree with the statement; while 22 percent somewhat agree. Only 6 percent of respondents disagreed (4 percent somewhat disagree; 2 percent strongly disagree).
Turning to the question, “who is best suited to decide where a child should attend school?” Respondents once again affirmed the role of parents. Eighty-eight percent of respondents selected “parent or legal guardian.” Five percent chose local school board, while 2 percent and 1 percent selected state government and federal government respectively.
Where would you send your child to school?
If parents could indeed choose where they send their children to school – assuming money or finances are not a problem – the results suggest there would be considerable movement between schools.
Twenty-eight percent of respondents chose a traditional public school. However, two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) would choose a charter school (13 percent), private school (45 percent), or home school (9 percent).
The preference for private schools was stronger among blacks (52 percent) than for whites (42 percent), while the choice of charter school was basically even between blacks and whites (11 percent and 12 percent, respectively).
North Carolina School Choice Programs
Respondents expressed strong support for current North Carolina School Choice programs.
When asked if respondents support or oppose charter schools, a full 76 percent of respondents said either strongly (33 percent) or somewhat (43 percent) support, while only 16 percent opposed charters.
Again, the breakdown by race is instructive, a full 74 percent of whites strongly support or somewhat support charter schools, while that figure increases to 82 percent among blacks. Support for charters remains strong across party affiliation with 78 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Independents saying they either strongly support or somewhat support charter schools.
Opportunity Scholarship Program
Eighty-five percent of poll respondents said they either strongly or somewhat support the Opportunity Scholarship Program. That contrasts with 12 percent of respondents who oppose the program. These numbers represent the highest levels of support for the program in recent history.
If we break down support by race, 84 percent of whites supported the Opportunity Scholarship Program, while support levels for the program increase to 93 percent among blacks. Interestingly, among those demonstrating strong support for the Opportunity Scholarship Program by party affiliation, Democrats (56 percent) bested both Republicans (49 percent) and Independents (48 percent).
Education Savings Accounts
Regarding Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), the results showed similar levels of support. A full 79 percent of respondents either “strongly support” (39 percent) or “somewhat support” (40 percent) the North Carolina special needs ESA program. Only 12 percent of respondents oppose the program.
When asked about expansion of the ESA program, the most popular response was, “Expand it to all students” (41 percent), while 20 percent preferred an expansion to low-income students. The preference for universal expansion among respondents is consistent with previous Civitas polls.
School Choice and Legislators
Our poll asked respondents how they felt about how well the legislature is meeting the needs of families for educational options. Only thirteen percent of respondents said lawmakers were “Doing a good job of expanding educational options for families.” Conversely, a full two-thirds of all respondents (67 percent) said lawmakers, “Need to do more to expand educational options for families.” Seven percent of respondents said, “lawmakers should stop expanding educational options for families.”
Who is asking lawmakers to do more to expand educational options? The support is from across the political spectrum. Sixty-six percent of Republicans, 68 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Independents are calling for more education options.
Lastly our poll asked respondents if they would be more likely or less likely to support a candidate for the state legislature who supports programs giving more educational options to families. A full 79 percent of respondents said they are “Much more likely to support” (42 percent) or “Somewhat more likely to support” (37 percent) such candidates. Breaking down support levels by race, 76 percent of whites said they would support such candidates while 85 percent of blacks said they would be more likely to support such candidates.
Only 8 percent said they would be “Much less likely to Support” (3 percent) or “Somewhat less likely to Support” (5 percent) such a candidate. Another 8 percent of respondents said that knowing of candidate support for increasing educational options for parents would make no difference in their voting.
What Does it All Mean?
Parents are the best advocates for their children. Poll results confirm what most of us already believe: parents should be able to choose where their child attends school. While the school choice movement has made progress, public policy does not reflect public sentiment. School choice programs like public charter schools, Opportunity Scholarships and ESAs are growing and remain popular. Contrary to the narrative of school choice critics, school choice programs have a wide and growing base of support across races, political ideology and party affiliation. Using that growing strength to develop better programs to expand educational opportunity in North Carolina is the task that fuels and inspires the school choice movement.