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School choice or public funding? New poll shows national preference

A new annual poll by Education Next shows increasing support for ‘School Choice’ initiatives under Donald Trump administration.

‘School Choice’ programs allow parents to avoid sending their children to district public schools by offering additional public options like open enrollment, magnet programs and charter schools. 

Often this includes a voucher system, which could allow students to access private options as well, with certain incentives given to parents and students that make it less cost-prohibitive to do so.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is credited with proposing the first federal ‘School Choice’ voucher system that, if implemented, would allow for students who would otherwise have to attend public school to go to private school instead.

The more choices for parents and students the better, right?

Unfortunately, like most things that are relentlessly politicized, education and access are not cut and dry.

Critics of ‘School Choice’ programs see it as a “scheme” that promises greater racial and economic segregation in the United States.

DeVos thinks more choices will have the opposite effect and has said as much, but competing research suggests the outcomes of such programs are questionable and based on the success of a number of factors.

After all, taking advantage of school choice requires awareness of programs, research, ability to accurately fill out and submit dozens of forms, transportation to and from the school of choice, and other obstacles that can hinder disadvantaged families.

Jinal Jhaveri, CEO of SchoolMint told Forbes, “Simply having a choice program is not enough and it can actually reinforce problems of access … it has to be implemented correctly.”

Education Next, who initiated the annual poll, calls itself “a journal of opinion and research”. It’s also “a project of Harvard and Stanford universities”, according to a news release.

John Schilling, President of the American Federation of Children, released a statement about the poll’s data:

“This is another poll in a long line showing that voters continue to support educational choice policies. Despite the rhetoric from teachers’ unions and the chattering class on Twitter since 2016, the facts clearly show that support is on the rise for educational options over the past three years. … And policymakers should take note that key constituencies like parents, African Americans, and Hispanics register the highest support for school choice policies.”

While data on outcomes may be conflicting, what’s clear is that education is a political issue and minority voters are in the spotlight. 

Whether it’s to their benefit or detriment is unknown, but according to the latest Education Next poll Americans want more choices for their children.

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