Ready for Change: What Missourians Think of Parental Choice and the Public Schools
The Show-Me Institute has released a new study detailing Missouri’s overwhelming level of support for school choice, as demonstrated from the results of a survey we commissioned late last year. Here’s an excerpt from the executive summary:
As a general principle, Missouri residents overwhelmingly support parental choice in education. When asked whether parents, state government, or local government should make the decision about which school or which kind of school a child attends, 85 percent of respondents said that parents should make the decision.
Respondents were also strongly supportive of proposals to provide tuition tax credits to families with children in private schools, though attitudes were far more mixed when it came to taxpayer support for home-schooling families. Particularly significant is that while Missourians had only modestly positive views of the politicized term “school vouchers,” two-thirds of respondents embraced the notion that all families should be able to use public funds to send their children to a public or private school of their choice.
Although I’m the new guy on the Show-Me Institute team, and wasn’t here when this study was being developed, I participated in the final stages of proofreading and publication, so I already feel I know it intimately. It’s encouraging to find that so many of the people of Missouri recognize that the problems with public schools are systemic and can’t be adequately resolved without the option for parents to easily choose competing schools or forms of education.
The survey data reveal that African-Americans and Hispanics in particular believe the public schools their children attend are "in a crisis" or have "serious problems," and want to have a choice in where their children go to school. This is a trend I’ve seen in Portland, Oregon, as well, in my work with the Cascade Policy Institute. Cascade has allied itself with the Black Alliance for Educational Options there in its school choice project. As parents in urban school districts see their children’s educations failing, they increasingly see school choice as a critical part of the solution.
Our study reveals that Missourians are indeed ready for change, as support for some type of school choice crosses socioeconomic boundaries, and includes both parents and non-parents. Public officials should take note:
[T]he Missouri environment appears hospitable to continued effort to promote choice-based reform, especially for policies that give parents greater control over education and give students equal access to safe and academically excelling schools. Public officials who push for sensibly designed choice programs have cause for optimism.