During a year with countless major education news headlines and reforms, one might expect public opinion on education policy to change. However, the recently-released fifth-annual Education Next–PEPG Survey demonstrates that Americans’ opinions on education issues remains stable – with one notable and encouraging exception.
With similar percentages to last year’s poll, a plurality of respondents still support common education reforms such as charter schools, alternative teacher certification, teacher tenure based on student performance, and teacher merit pay.
The one exception is vouchers, which are government funded scholarships for children to attend the public or private school of their choice. Support for vouchers increased by 8 percentage points between 2010 and 2011, the largest shift in public opinion regarding education over the past year. The change in opinion is the same for responses to a “voucher-friendly” question that emphasized giving parents a choice and a “voucher unfriendly” question that emphasized students going to private school at the public expense.
As one would expect, respondents were more likely to say they support vouchers if asked the “voucher friendly” question (47 percent) than if asked the “voucher unfriendly” question (39 percent). However, regardless of the wording, a higher percentage of respondents said they support vouchers than oppose.
With many commentators declaring 2011 the “year of school choice,” the significant increase in voucher support is not surprising. And as choice opportunities expand, even more families will see the positive impact vouchers have on both scholarship recipients and public schools, hopefully leading to even greater support for vouchers and school choice.