New report: Less support for charter schools but more for vouchers. Why?

Public support for charter schools has fallen among Republicans and Democrats, according to a new poll. (Photo/Brant Sanderlin bsanderlin@ajc.com)

A lot of folks are trying to figure out the drop in public support for charter schools revealed in the 11th annual edition of a well-regarded poll that examines current attitudes toward major issues in K–12 education. The poll by Education Next, a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School, goes deep and looks at results by political party.

In its exploration of the charter school question, Education Next found Republicans and Democrats were less enthused this year, as this chart from the report illustrates.

Here is what the report says about charters:

Thirty-nine percent of respondents say they support “the formation of charter schools,” which is down steeply from 51% in 2016, but still a bit higher than the 36% who express opposition this year. (Roughly one in four respondents takes no position on charter schools, perhaps reflecting the fact that many Americans remain unfamiliar with them.) Support has also fallen within the minority community—from 46% to 37% among blacks, and from 44% to 39% among Hispanics.

One might expect that this year’s decline in support for charters would be concentrated among Democrats, given the position taken by Trump, but that turns out not to be so. Support falls by 13 percentage points among Republicans (from 60% to 47%) and by 11 percentage points among Democrats (from 45% to 34%), leaving the partisan gap on the issue largely unchanged.

Public awareness of struggling charters within their communities and the wariness of the NAACP may have contributed to the slip in support. Nearly a year ago, the NAACP endorsed a moratorium on expanding charter schools until there is greater transparency and accountability. There was such an outcry about the moratorium that the civil rights organization created a task force to hold hearings around the country on how charters were faring.

Last month, after listening to proponents and opponents in seven cities, the task force advised continued caution around charters, concluding in this final report:

There are indeed some excellent charter schools – and where they provide high-quality education to all students without exclusions, they make a positive contribution. However, we also heard about the many poor charter schools that fail to serve children with the greatest needs, offer suboptimal education, and engage in financial mismanagement, sometimes pocketing public money to make a profit for private citizens. Further, we heard about the results of a loss of neighborhood schools when they are closed in order to create charters – the long bus rides for young children, the inability of parents to be engaged in schools far from their communities, and the loss of civil rights protections for children who cannot get into a school near their home and, in effect, have no real choice.

Parents and politicians have now had more than two decades to watch charter schools. Innovations in education are often met with enthusiasm and a bit of blind faith, which occurred in Georgia with charter schools and online instruction. I believe disappointing outcomes have diminished the initial zeal for both.

Yes, there are some strong charters in Georgia, just as there are strong traditional public schools. However, charters face the same challenges in high poverty communities that every school confronts. Operating as a charter doesn’t automatically produce wondrous results, and that may be better understood now.

Here are some other interesting findings from the report: (It’s a fascinating report with a lot of information so please read the entire thing if you can.)

Private-school choice: A year ago, 29% of the public opposed tax credit–funded scholarships that allow low-income students to attend private schools — an approach that is now used by 16 states and rumored to be under consideration by the Trump administration. That percentage has fallen to just 24%. Tax credits continue to command the highest level of support among all choice proposals. Fifty-four percent of respondents favor the idea, a level not noticeably different from last year.

Vouchers: Opposition to vouchers has declined. When asked whether they favor universal vouchers—giving vouchers to “all families” in order to give parents a “wider choice”—only 37% of the general public express opposition, down from 44% a year ago. Supporters, at 45%, now have a clear plurality. Opposition to vouchers for low-income parents to give them “wider choice” also fell, from 48% to 41%, while the level of support ticked upward from 37% to 41%.

Common Core: From 2013 through 2016, public support for the Common Core steadily eroded, from 65% to 42%. Meanwhile, opposition more than tripled, from 13% to 42%. Yet this year that downward trend has suddenly come to a halt (Figure 4). At 41%, the level of support shows no real change from a year ago. The percentage opposed, at 38%, also tracks closely to 2016. The escalating trend of opinion against Common Core may have run its course.

Testing: Support for testing and school accountability enjoys broad support not only across party lines, but also among parents and, in some instances, among teachers.

Nearly two thirds of the public favor the federal government’s requirement that all students be tested in math and reading each year in 3rd through 8th grade and at least once in high school, and only 24% oppose the policy. Republican support (62%) and Democratic support (66%) are both strong. Parents of school-age children are just as supportive (63%) as the public at large. Teachers are an exception, however: a slight majority, 52%, oppose the annual testing requirement. Teacher opinion more closely resembles that of the broader public on the issue of allowing parents to opt out of state testing of students. Fifty-eight percent of teachers oppose allowing parents to opt out, which is close to the shares among the public (63%) and parents (55%).

Teacher salaries: When asked whether teacher salaries should be raised, no fewer than 61% of Americans are in favor. But when told what teachers currently earn, the level of support drops to 36%.

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

26 comments
Teachertim
Teachertim

Reports like this reminds me to thank God that public schools are institutions with long-term stability and people that have the best interest of our nation's youth as their purpose (public servants).  Sure, there is room for improvement but PUBLIC schools are not in it for the profits, with short term bottom line goals. As for the interest in vouchers, with all the bashing and negativity aimed at public education, there are lots of folks out there that see them as their silver bullet to go to 'greener pastures.' I am proud to serve our children as a public school teacher.

bicami
bicami

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Dede Thompson McClure
Dede Thompson McClure

Hummm - well that is extremely interesting distressing Listen - I am most appreciative that you allowed me space to air my views. I am certain you have devoted hours and hours and hours of time and passion to this issue - all I have to do is look at your posts to know your commitment- thank you for being an active and open listener and fight on! I am going to reach out to old cronies and discuss GA with them and see what they would do in your place - likely all will say you are doing what you should be doing - hopefully someone may have an idea that will forward your agenda---

weetamoe
weetamoe

"Enthused."  And you write about education?

You stopped writing about critical thinking some time ago.  That is understandable, since you yourself exhibit none. You accepted and repeated the New York Times lies about the DOJ continuing investigation into discrimination at Harvard.  But you really should know better than to use "enthused" the way you did in this article.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

Lol...Dede. Enjoy those pups and your beautiful farm. I got called away by milk boiling all over my stove, countertop, and cabinets. Oh the horror... Meanwhile, I will leave this here. In Georgia, it's kind of the opposite of what you describe in DC. We jump on every bandwagon, have spent millions and millions and millions on technology and the next great thing, ignoring tried and true teaching methods. Personally, I'd love a balance instead of the wrecking ball. Huge money is spent on consultants and conventions while the schools have been underfunded (according to QBE, our funding model) since 2002. Now those schools will be further defunded. Those schools that will be snatched out of the local districts? Those go into GOSA, run by the governor, and they get to extract local taxpayer money for those schools out of the local districts, leaving the other schools with even less. I am a little familiar with KIPP. Zero tolerance is what stands out in my mind. They seem to be an exception in the charter picture in Atlanta.

Dede Thompson McClure
Dede Thompson McClure

As an FYI - the charter school movement had its roots in insuring homeless kids were not left out of public education - the first charter being issued in MN for that purpose. Cannot enroll in a public school without a permanent address - at least not in the90's. Having been intimately involved in the founding and growth of charters in DC since our legislation was passed in the mid-90's, and having attended a number of National Public charter school events, I would suggest (1) recognize that each state writes its own charter legislation and they vary widely and wildly (2) careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water I do not disagree at all that in some states for-profit education companies play a role (sometimes big, sometimes small) - New Orleans, because of Katrina, was/is an anomaly. The testing et al - I think I would be careful to frame that argument separate from how, in the public arena, kids are educated. I have never read the charter school legislation for the state of Georgia - depending on whose hands were in it typically determines the intent - obviously Susan, we share different perspectives. When you visit, I would love nothing more than to show you the up side of charters in DC and you can sit in the office of the founder of my most beloved school and she will nod in agreement with virtually everything you say---and then offer one avenue apart that may allow you to see this controversy as very grey and not so black and white. Jus sayin'!

Dede Thompson McClure
Dede Thompson McClure

Oh my god - now as a working retired empty nester, I am going to go play with dogs! I will consider your question of where to turn---go to get my head in the game, Suzy Q

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

Dede, I know you have been intimately involved in a great charter school there. There are many types of charter schools, and the ones conceived and implemented by a community are entirely different than the ones I was talking about. Those like yours certainly fill a need and do it well. But in Georgia, and I suspect elsewhere in the nation, there is a growing charter-school-for-profit industry which is sucking local and state education money dry, leaving neighborhood schools without adequate funding. These big business charter school companies have a huge turnover rate and their scores are mostly lower than the traditional public schools. Teachers report a lack of resources and support. Kids are often cherry-picked, leaving children with special needs, behavior issues, and lower scores populating the neighborhood schools. They can't do this overtly, of course, but these schools have high expulsion rates and don't offer much or any in the way of special services for those students who need them. They have a history of what I consider abusive practices to squeeze higher test scores from the kids, because that is how they retain their charters. The children are not the goal. They are the means to the money. Dede, I know you put your blood, sweat, and tears into a charter school that means a great deal to you. I do not paint all charter schools with the same brush. Certainly there is a place and a need for special schools like yours. But in Georgia, we have a governor that has formed a shadow agency called GOSA, to which he plans to turn over all schools that he deems "failing", as defined primarily by the results of an abusive high stakes test called Georgia Milestones. The goal is to snatch all of these schools out of their districts and turn them over to big charter companies. Parents will lose their voice as they will no longer have a school board that has to answer to them. And the children most likely to suffer from this are the very ones that the charters were supposed to help in the first place.

Dede Thompson McClure
Dede Thompson McClure

Again - my point being charter schools and their oversight is all organized in the charter school legislation passed by individual states and the laws vary greatly and your instinct is correct in assuming that the law can be written to benefit certain groups economically. I don't come at this from a community perspective - I'm trying to be a little low key here - i have been involved nationally for 20 years---this was my profession, locally and nationally to insure that decades and decades of neglect and abuse, particularly in minority communities, stopped. I am also one of those damn liberals that thinks school boards are an anomaly and should be abolished. I should read the Georgia legislation cause it sounds horrifying. Many states have great laws and are doing astounding work in public education. I am sorry for you that Georgia isn't one of them--truly. And I know first hand how your kind of focused advocacy and action can make a difference.

Dede Thompson McClure
Dede Thompson McClure

I am curious why the focus on charters when less than 17% of GA public school children are enrolled in charters?

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

I'd love to talk to you more about this. I don't know what other states are doing. I'm only talking about Georgia. Georgia just voted down a constitutional amendment that you might find interesting. The governor retaliated and got a "lite" version passed through the legislature this spring, SB 338. I'm fascinated by your dislike of school boards. I just went to a board meeting yesterday in which I knew the players and had a voice. I'd hate to lose that. Is it the political aspect of them that you don't like?

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

Dede, the focus is because of the governor's plans, just now starting to be implemented, after the passing of SB 338.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

Kay Draper Hutchinson, I see you. Care to weigh in? Dede is my cousin. And you guys share political perspective. You both frequently share the same articles...lol.

Kay Draper Hutchinson
Kay Draper Hutchinson

Ok, I need more time to read thread through to see her positive experiences.

Dede Thompson McClure
Dede Thompson McClure

Susan - it is the "voice" of all that matters a great deal to me. I have witnessed school boards co-opting public participation - school boards historically have been biased with a little too much authority in what I believe is the most important thing we do - public education to insure literacy to insure an educated voting public---that was what Horace Mann thought we needed. Will try and read SB 338 -

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

I agree that they have too much authority, and they are too political. But without my vote to "speak" with, who would I turn to in their absence? A faceless administrator with no accountability to me? I'm not sure what the alternative to a locally elected school board would be. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Dede Thompson McClure
Dede Thompson McClure

The simple answer to me is that school boards have rarely been favorable to minority populations - even as - in urban areas - minority students are often in the majority---

Diane Jacobi
Diane Jacobi

Dede Thompson McClure You can find the GA charter laws at the link below - they are part of Title 20, Articles 30, 31, 31A, and 31B. IMO, Georgia ranks to the upper middle in terms of oversight and accountability with the charter laws. The only permitted authorizers are local boards and the state board. There is a recognition for more training and accountability on the financial side. https://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/gacode/

Dede Thompson McClure
Dede Thompson McClure

thank you! I was quite surprised to see that the Georgia charter school legislation was written early early in the movement - yet very few charters opened. Thanks for these resources

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

Thanks for lending your voice to this, Diane Jacobi. You're always a font of knowledge.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

At it's inception, public education was meant to create compliant worker bees. But over the years, it evolved into something more. Better. Until the '70's, when the Department of Education was formed and the education "reform" movement was born. Open classrooms, new math, outcome-based education, yadda yadda yadda. Fads came and fads went. Little by little, public education was diminished. Government wanted to consolidate power and control it. Business got involved and wanted to monetize it. This is how Common Core got its ugly roots dug in so deeply, and why they are now testing the bejeesus out of our kids. Charter schools are just another facet of this. There is big, big money in the charter school industry. I think people are slowly getting this, and seeing that the results aren't so great. Take a look at this telling brief documentary about the New Orleans charter school debacle to see exactly what "school choice" looks like when fully implemented. It isn't pretty. https://vimeo.com/119897370

Astropig
Astropig

Not hard to figure at all. Teachers unions and their affiliated,but non union twins have stopped ignoring and mocking charter schools and are spending big $$$ to undermine and oppose them.They have mobilized and turned on the marketing machine and that is a fact that cannot be ignored.Look at what the unions spent last year in Massachusetts to stop a mild expansion of charter availability and you'll get an idea of how desperate they've become to keep "their" students down on their plantation.


That said, I think that this is statistical wobble.As with all polls quoted in the media,there is a reason that you're seeing this data,right here,right now.Just as polls can be used to enhance or suppress the vote in an election,there is a larger strategy at play here.I saw this out there a few days ago and turned to Astrowife and immediately,like that minute,said that we'd soon see the charter hating media trumpet this.Well, right on cue,here it is.


Charters are still growing like Topsy,so poll or no poll,I'd say that when the actual number of them decline and there is no longer a waiting list,it will be time to be really concerned.

Beth Day
Beth Day

Let's just walk away from public education entirely, shall we? Who needs investment in our country and our future... Pfffft. Just everyone for himher self. Sounds like a great plan.

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

No one is stopping anyone from setting up their own schools. But I think our public education experiment is a total failure and no one seems inclined to actually make changes. Without schools people still learn. I know sounds crazy. But it's true. Seriously.