Study Finds Support for Charter Schools Growing in US

22 August, 2018

A new study published Tuesday has found increased support for charter schools and private school voucher programs. The study suggests that Republican Party support for these programs had a strong influence on the increase.

A charter school is a school that receives a special charter, or written rules, from a state government. These schools, a type of school choice, are publicly funded but operate independently from school districts.

School voucher programs permit public funds to pay for students to attend a private or religious school.

The findings by Education Next, were published by Harvard University's Kennedy School and Stanford University. They come as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos promotes alternatives to traditional public schools.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reads to students at Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, Friday, June 2, 2017.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reads to students at Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, Friday, June 2, 2017.

Growing charter support

The study found that 44 percent of respondents said they support the expansion of charter schools, compared to 39 percent in 2017. However, that number was at 51 percent in 2016.

The study found that 57 percent of Republicans included in the study support charter schools. Thirty-six percent of Democrats said the same. The number of Republicans who answered favorably in last year's study was 47 percent. The number among Democrats in 2017 was 34 percent.

Martin West of Harvard University is one of the report's writers. He said, "Support is up among Republicans for various strategies to expand school choice, and the Trump administration's embrace of those policies is a likely explanation."

Nina Rees is president of the organization National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She said the findings "demonstrate through the educational choices they make for children - families want higher quality charter school options for their kids."

Rees added, "Above all else, parents care that their child has access to an excellent school, and as education advocates, it is our job to ensure that wish becomes a reality."

Robin Lake is with the Center on Reinventing Public Education. Lake noted that the issue of charter schools has become extremely political. Lake said, "I don't think that an education policy that's designed to get better outcomes for kids should ever be a partisan issue."

Support also grew for publicly funded vouchers given to low-income families to help them pay for private schools. The study found that those in favor of such efforts rose from 37 percent in 2017 to 42 percent this year.

A low-income family is one that earns less than twice the federal poverty line.

More satisfied with police than schools

The report also found that Americans seem to be more satisfied with their local police and the post office than with their neighborhood school.

Fifty-one percent of respondents said they would give their local schools a grade of A or B. A grade of A or B means "above average."

But 68 percent gave the local post office a similar grade. Sixty-nine percent gave a similar grade to the local police.

Patrick McGuinn, an education and political science professor at Drew University, said it makes sense that if only 51 percent of Americans are giving public schools a high grade, then support for other school choices would grow.

The Education Next report was based on interviews with 4,601 adults across the United States.

I'm Ashley Thompson.

Marina Danilova reported this story for the Associated Press. Phil Dierking adapted the story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

Do you think charter or public schools are better for students' learning? Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

embrace - v. to accept (something or someone) readily or gladly

promote - v. to help (something) happen, develop, or increase

alternative - n. to help (something) happen, develop, or increase

grade - n. a particular level of quality

journal - n. a magazine that reports on things of special interest to a particular group of people

partisan - adj. a person who strongly supports a particular leader, group, or cause

strategy - n. a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time

voucher - n. a document that gives you the right to get something (such as a product or service) without paying for it