A new study this week finds that school mothers overwhelmingly support school choice. According to the Friedman Foundation's survey, 69 percent of American mothers of school-aged children supported scholarship tax credit (STC) programs while only 19 percent opposed them. Americans in general support STC programs by a margin of 66 percent to 24 percent and non-schoolers support them 64 percent to 26 percent.
The survey found even higher support for STC programs among political independents, middle-income families, and African Americans (72 percent each). The greatest opposition (35 percent) came from high-income families who are already financially able to live in a district with a high-performing public school or to pay for their children to attend a private school.
The high level of public support for school choice is consistent with the findings of Harvard University's Program on Education Policy and Governance, which conducts an annual survey measuring public support of various education policies. Harvard's 2012 survey found that 72 percent of Americans favor STC programs.
Voucher programs, which entail direct government expenditures of tax dollars to provide school choice, were less popular than STC programs but still supported by a plurality of mothers. When asked about their support for voucher programs without providing a definition for "voucher," 43 percent of mothers supported vouchers and 22 percent were opposed. When provided with a definition for "voucher," support increased to 66 percent and opposition increased to 26 percent. These findings are also consistent with the 2012 Harvard survey, which found 43 percent of the general public supported vouchers with 29 percent opposed and 28 percent neutral. When the "neutral" option was eliminated, the support-to-opposition ratio was 50-50.
Some of the Friedman study's other findings include:
- If given the choice, a plurality of school moms would select private schools for their children (42 percent) compared with public schools (36 percent), charter schools (9 percent), or homeschooling (9 percent).
- School moms are almost twice as likely to support universal eligibility (66 percent) compared to school choice programs based on financial need (35 percent).
- School moms support education savings accounts by 65 percent to 25 percent.
- School moms support charter schools by a margin of 45 percent to 19 percent. When supplied with a definition of "charter school," support increased to 63 percent with 25 percent opposed.
- Nearly twice as many school moms think that U.S. education is on the wrong track (61 percent) versus the right track (32 percent).
- More than four times as many school moms rate the federal government's involvement in the education system as "fair" or "poor" (79 percent) compared with "good" or "excellent" (17 percent).
- A majority of school moms and the general public underestimate the amount that federal, state, and local governments spend per pupil in the public schools.*
[*Note: The Friedman Foundation's survey uses operating per pupil expenditures as its point of comparison, but these figures omit significant expenditures such as buildings. A more accurate figure would be total per pupil expenditures.]