Survey: Support and opposition growing for school vouchers

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Public support may be growing nationally for school voucher programs, but so is opposition, according to a new survey by a pro-parental choice think tank.

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice polled more than 1,007 U.S. adults in its latest annual survey on a wide range of education-related topics, from school spending to Common Core State Standards.

The results of the 2014 Schooling in America Survey, released Thursday, show nearly two out of three Americans support vouchers, and suggest more people are forming opinions about them. The survey found support for vouchers has climbed seven percentage points over the past two years, while opposition grew by five percentage points.

Public opinion
A Friedman Foundation survey gauges public opinion on parental choice options.

The survey first asked people whether they support “school vouchers” without providing a definition, and found 43 percent in support and 21 percent in opposition. Support rose to 63 percent, and opposition to 33 percent, after people were given this definition:

A school voucher system allows parents the option of sending their child to a school of their choice, whether that school is public or private, including both religious and non-religious schools. If this policy were adopted, tax dollars currently allocated to a school district would be allocated to parents in the form of a “school voucher” to pay partial or full tuition for their child’s school.

A separate question provided a definition of tax credit scholarship programs and found a similar level of support (64 percent) but less opposition (25 percent) than it did for vouchers. Florida has both voucher and tax credit programs. While vouchers are funded directly through the state budget, tax credit scholarships allow companies to reduce their tax bills by donating money to scholarship funding organizations like Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.

The survey found less support but still a majority (56 percent) in favor of education savings accounts, which will soon be available to special needs students in Florida under legislation signed last week by Gov. Rick Scott.

The survey also shows people younger than 34 are more likely to support vouchers than those older than 55.

The results contrast with a Florida-based survey published earlier this year. The Sunshine State News poll showed “voters” narrowly oppose voucher programs. Because it surveyed likely voters and not the general population, it included a greater proportion of older people, who were less likely to support private school choice programs. It also worded its question differently, asking about scholarships for “low-income” students.

The Friedman Foundation has a mission of promoting educational choice. It provides a breakdown of its findings, methods and survey questions along with the full report. The American Enterprise Institute this afternoon will host a panel discussion and webcast on the results.