Parents Agree: More Is Better
As first appearing in the Columbia Daily Tribune:
We have all seen the commercials: A man is sitting at a table with a group of children and asks, “Which is better, more or less?” The children quickly, and comically, explain why more is better. The ad ends with a familiar refrain: It’s not complicated.
Recently, the Show-Me Institute partnered with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice to ask a similar question among Missouri voters. Which is better: more educational opportunities or fewer? The responses in that survey reflected those of the children in the commercial — more is better.
Across the board, the majority of voters supported expanding educational options for students. Missouri lawmakers should keep this in mind as they work to “fix” the interdistrict transfer law.
Undeniably, there are problems with the current law that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, much of the fix will result in fewer, not more, educational opportunities for students in unaccredited districts. That is why a bipartisan compromise was inserted into the bill — a local private option, which would allow students in failing schools to attend a nearby, nonreligious private school.
Some argue the local private option does not belong in the transfer fix discussion. Sadly, these individuals are trying to make the transfer program more palatable for public school districts rather than increase opportunities for students.
The private option does exactly that. It’s doing so in 24 states and Washington, D.C., with Kansas being the most recent state to adopt school choice.
Missourians recognize having more educational opportunities is better than having fewer such opportunities. In fact, most Missourians would use school choice if they had it.
When participants in our survey were asked what type of school they would select to obtain the best education for their child, 39 percent indicated private schools would be their first choice, 11 percent said they would choose a charter school and 10 percent said they would home-school their children. Less than one-third of respondents said they would send their children to a regular public school.
Despite the strong desire for educational options and the high regard for private schools, nearly 90 percent of all Missouri students attend regular public schools. This mismatch between parents’ school preferences and the educational reality in Missouri has occurred because the Show-Me State lacks school choice programs. Without these options, many parents do not have the ability to send their children to the school of their choice.
Not surprisingly, a majority of the individuals in our poll said they would support expanding school choice. In fact, inter-district choice, charter schools and private school choice programs received similar levels of support — all above 60 percent. This includes strong support for school choice among rural voters.
Support tended to be highest among parents and low-income families — the individuals who stand to gain the most from the creation of school choice programs. They see the value in giving parents access to their children’s funding to choose the schools, public or private, that work best for them.
And why shouldn’t they support that policy? It’s not complicated.
James V. Shuls is the director of education policy at the Show-Me Institute. Robert Enlow is the president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. The full poll results are available at edchoice.org/MissouriSurvey.