WASHINGTON – Voters are demonstrating widespread dissatisfaction with public schools in a series of surveys.
In the latest scientifically representative poll conducted by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice among Idaho voters, only 12 percent of parents said they would choose government school for their children if other options were available.
The results were similar in other states, including Illinois, Nevada and Tennessee. The Indiana-based Friedman Foundation is using the surveys to gauge American attitudes toward school choice.
In addition, the Idaho survey revealed only 4 percent of parents between the ages of 36 and 55 would use public schools over alternatives such as private or charter schools.
“What is significant is that this age group is the primary consumer of public education,” said Bryan Fischer, executive director of Idaho Values Alliance, a public policy research group based in Boise. “These are the people that have their children in the education pipeline. This says the more parents use the Idaho public school system, the less satisfied they are with it, and the more they want to be provided with genuine choice in education,” he told the Chicago-based Heartland Institute.
Approximately 6,900 students are on charter school waiting lists this year, according to the Center for School Improvement and Policy Studies at Boise State University. To accommodate these students, existing charter schools would need to expand their total capacity immediately by 70 percent, or many new schools would have to be authorized.
According to the Center for Education Reform, there are currently 30 charter schools serving almost 10,000 students in Idaho – a mere 4 percent of the overall public school population.
Despite widespread demand for more education options, many states offer few choices to dissatisfied citizenry, according to the study.
“It’s about demand, and this is really showing that there is demand for different types of schools when all things are equal in terms of access,” explained Paul DiPerna, the Friedman Foundation’s director of partner services and author of the study. “There is significant demand for charter and private schools. Homeschooling was also in pretty high demand in Idaho. The current system, not just in Idaho but all over the United States, inhibits free choice.”