Poll: 66-70% of Voters in 5 Battleground States Support K-12 School Choice

AP Photo/Jessie L. Bonner
AP Photo/Jessie L. Bonner

A survey released last week revealed 66-70 percent of likely voters in five battleground states this election season support publicly funded K-12 school choice, which Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden has rejected.

The Manhattan Institute commissioned the survey of nine questions related to school choice and charter schools that pollster Rasmussen Reports conducted in the key states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina.

The questions were added to Rasmussen’s regular polling of 1,000 likely voters in each of these swing states for presidential and senatorial races. More information about the larger poll can be found in a companion report accessed through Manhattan Institute’s summary.

Of all likely voters surveyed, 66–70 percent either strongly or somewhat supported the concept of publicly funded K-12 school choice. Moreover, support for publicly funded school choice was higher among blacks, at 65–77 percent.

In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, support for school choice was at 66 percent among all likely voters, and 77 percent among blacks.

Among all voters in Ohio, 69 percent support school choice, while 72 percent of blacks say the same.

In Michigan, support for school choice was at 68 percent among all likely voters, and 77 percent among blacks.

In North Carolina, 70 percent of all likely voters support school choice while 65 percent of blacks also support the idea.

Results of the poll showed little support for the idea that school choice is harmful to education in grades K–12.

Responses of likely voters in all five states showed between 46–52 percent said parents’ right to choose their children’s school raises the overall quality of K–12 education for them. Only 18-20 percent said parents’ right to choose their children’s school environment lowers the quality of education.

Among blacks who participated in the survey, 43–57 percent said parental choice improves educational quality, with Ohio at the low end of that range.

Additionally, in all states except Ohio, black respondents were less likely to say parental choice lowers educational quality than was the general population.

Manhattan Institute noted that only 8-11 percent of all battleground state respondents said their state gave parents too much choice in selection of schools for children.

Among all participants, 29-39 percent said their state gave parents too little school choice, with 34-45 percent of black respondents stating the same.

The poll in these five battleground states is significant, since its results point to a marked discrepancy in support for school choice between likely voters, including blacks, and Biden and the Democrat Party.

Backed by the teachers’ unions, Biden has repeated his intention, if elected, to provide even more funding to traditional public schools and to ensure no public funds are given to parents to choose other schools they believe will offer their children a better education.

“When we divert public funds to private schools, we undermine the entire public education system,” Biden tweeted in January. “We’ve got to prioritize investing in our public schools, so every kid in America gets a fair shot. That’s why I oppose vouchers.”

The Democrat Party’s 2020 platform has also called for greater scrutiny of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed, and teachers’ unions have had some success in unionizing employees of some charter schools.

“Democrats believe that education is a public good and should not be saddled with a private profit motive, which is why we will ban for-profit private charter businesses from receiving federal funding,” the platform states, and adds Democrats will use “accountability” regulations to ultimately turn charter schools into regular public schools:

We support measures to increase accountability for charter schools, including by requiring all charter schools to meet the same standards of transparency as traditional public schools, including with regard to civil rights protections, racial equity, admissions practices, disciplinary procedures, and school finances.

In 2012, the Obama-Biden administration stood with teachers’ unions and against low-income parents choosing a private or religious school for their child’s education.

The administration’s 2013 budget eliminated funding for the highly successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which allowed many low-income parents living in the nation’s capital to afford to remove their children from failing public schools and send them to a religious or private school.

Supported by the teachers’ unions, the Biden-Harris ticket follows along with the same agenda.

When Harris was a presidential candidate, she touted her support for busing during a debate as she criticized school choice policies.

Several recent polls confirm black and Hispanic Americans, as well as whites, overwhelmingly support school choice.

One national poll commissioned by the American Federation for Children in January 2019, found 67 percent of voters support school choice, including 73 percent of Latinos, 67 percent of blacks, and 68 percent of whites.

Another poll released in August 2019 by Education Next found black Democrats approve of targeted vouchers, universal vouchers, and charter schools at 70 percent, 64 percent, and 55 percent, respectively, and Hispanic Democrats approve at 67 percent, 60 percent, and 47 percent.

Yet a third poll, commissioned by school choice proponents Democrats for Education Reform and released in October 2019, found 81 percent of Democrat primary voters, including 89 percent of black Democrat primary voters, support a proposal to “expand access to more choices and options within the public-school system,” including charter schools.

President Donald Trump and his administration have been ardent supporters of school choice.

In August, during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump pointed to the devastating impact of Biden’s opposition to school choice, particularly on children of minority families.

“Biden … vowed to oppose school choice and close down charter schools, ripping away the ladder of opportunity for black and Hispanic children,” the president said, adding that, if elected to a second term, he will “expand charter schools and provide school choice to every family in America, and we will always treat our teachers with the tremendous respect they deserve.”

The president also observed that Biden is “weak,” and “takes his marching orders from liberal hypocrites who drive their cities into the ground while fleeing far from the scene of the wreckage.”

“These same liberals want to eliminate school choice while they enroll their children in the finest private schools in the land,” he asserted.

The president has consistently supported education opportunity for every child.

Trump has also urged Congress to pass legislation that would ensure education opportunities for students by providing a federal tax credit to individuals and businesses that donate to nonprofit scholarship funds.

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