Published March 17, 2022
According to a new poll released this morning by the American Federation for Children and Invest in Education, support for school choice continues to rise among Americans of all political views and across racial demographics.
The results, obtained exclusively by National Review, contain several notable findings, but the theme is clear: Americans of all stripes are beginning to reach a consensus in favor of school choice and of education policy that favors parental rights. The survey asked respondents about four key areas of the education debate: the role of parents, education-savings accounts, education-freedom scholarships, and failing schools. On each question, a majority of all respondents believed that greater education freedom is the correct policy.
The survey was conducted by OnMessage Inc. in telephone interviews between February 14 and February 17, surveying 1,000 voters likely to vote in the upcoming general election. The sample was stratified to reflect voter trends and had a 3.1 percent margin of error.
“As we mark two years since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a seismic shift in how parents think about education,” said Luke Messer, president of Invest in Education, and Tommy Schultz, CEO of the American Federation for Children in a joint statement. “Voters are also prioritizing education freedom and standing ready to make their views known at the ballot box.”
Messer and Schultz also emphasized that growing support for school choice is a response to “egregious achievement gaps” in public schools and the fact that “disadvantaged children [are] systematically assigned to schools that have been failing students for decades.”
Three-quarters of respondents agreed that “parents should be in charge of decisions regarding their child’s education” and that “it is not fair that only wealthy parents truly get to decide where their child goes to school.” Majorities of Republicans (86 percent), Democrats (65 percent), and independents (74 percent) agreed with these characterizations. So did huge majorities across racial divides, including 83 percent of blacks and 77 percent of Hispanics.
Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed support education-savings accounts (ESAs), which allow parents to save pre-tax income for a wide variety of education-related expenses. More than three-quarters of Democrats support ESAs, as do 85 percent of Hispanic voters and 84 percent of black voters.
Similarly, respondents were highly supportive of the Education Freedom Scholarship Act, a bill currently before Congress, which would create a federal tax-credit scholarship program. The bill would allow individuals and businesses to receive a tax credit for donating to nonprofit scholarships that allow parents to send children to the school of their choice. Two-thirds of respondents said they support such a program, including 71 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Democrats, and 63 percent of independents. Eighty-four percent of black voters agreed.
Finally, the survey asked voters whether they believe that “parents should have the right to remove their children from a failing public school and enroll them in a school that is succeeding academically.” Eighty-three percent of respondents agreed, including three-quarters of Democratic respondents. Nearly 90 percent of black voters agreed with this statement, as did 85 percent of Hispanics.
The results of this survey are quite similar to a poll released earlier this month by RealClear Opinion Research, which found that almost three-quarters of Americans say they support school choice. That survey was conducted the week before this one from OnMessage Inc. and surveyed 2,000 registered voters. The RealClear poll found similar support across ideological and racial lines: Eighty-two percent of Republicans, 68 percent of Democrats, and 67 percent of independents said they support funding students instead of the public-school system. The poll also found that Hispanic Americans were most supportive of school choice (77 percent), followed by white respondents (72 percent), black respondents (70 percent), and Asian respondents (66 percent).
Perhaps most interesting, RealClear found that the support for school choice has risen steeply since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago — not a surprising reality. In April 2020, just 64 percent of Americans said they supported school choice, including 75 percent of Republicans, 59 percent of Democrats, and 60 percent of independents.
School choice has for quite some time been a significant wedge issue for the Democratic Party, but the conditions created by the pandemic and related lockdowns and restrictions — extended for far too long by progressive bureaucrats and politicians — have only intensified that reality.
Alexandra DeSanctis is a staff writer for National Review and a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.