Ready for Change: What Missourians Think of Parental Choice and Public Schools
In an attempt to gauge the intensity and direction of public opinion on school choice in Missouri, the Show- Me Institute commissioned Market Research Insight (MRI) in fall 2006 to conduct a telephone poll of Missouri residents. Between November 20 and December 8, 2006, MRI interviewed a total of 942 Missouri residents. Respondents reported a high level of dissatisfaction with public schooling in Missouri and little faith in the power of parents to change public schools for the better. When asked how well Missouri’s K-12 public schools are doing, just 12 percent of respondents believed the schools are “doing very well,” while 63 percent reported that public schools in Missouri are either “in a crisis” or have “serious problems.” Sixty-six percent of respondents felt that parents have “very little control” over how schools are run, with just 5 percent saying that parents have “a great deal of control.” African-Americans overwhelmingly indicated that parents have little influence over schooling. 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.