This week, the 45th annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools was released. Although it hit on several hot education topics, such as the Common Core State Standards and Teacher Evaluation, one of the poll’s most notable results was the public’s growing disapproval of private school vouchers.
The survey reported the highest level of opposition to private school vouchers in its history: 70 percent of the public opposes private school vouchers. This is even higher than the opposition marked in 2012 (55 percent) and 2011 (65 percent).
Not only is this the highest opposition yet, but it comes at a time when private school vouchers are widely being pushed on the state and federal level. The National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE), of which AU is a co-chair, issued a press release saying the poll confirms that “the American people want a well-funded public school system that benefits all, not a patchwork of unaccountable private schools that cater to a few.”
The Friedman Foundation for Education Choice, a proponent of vouchers, was quick to call the PDK/Gallup Poll an outlier, saying the wording of the private school voucher question caused the public to lean towards opposition. But, the poll question was neutral, asking, “Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?” Furthermore, the PDK/Gallup wording has remained identical for the past three years, so the trend data is accurate and not due to differences in wording.
The PDK/Gallup Poll wording also doesn’t even mention the clear problems surrounding private school vouchers: taxpayer unaccountability, a lack of civil rights protections, and public funding of religious schools.
The Friedman Foundation, in contrast, regularly puts out biased polls that claim the public supports vouchers. As AASA, the School Superintendents Association, points out in an article about these public opinion surveys, the Friedman Foundation’s polls contain explicitly biased language so people are more likely to express support for vouchers: “If a private school offered the best education for a particular child, would you favor allowing parents the option of using public funds to send their children to private schools?”
The Freedman Foundation poll language forces the respondent to assume false information—that private voucher schools provide a better education—which we know from study after study just isn’t true. As a result, these polls push people towards supporting vouchers even if they really don’t.
But there is additional proof that the public truly opposes vouchers: Votes on state voucher referenda show that in the last 43 years, voters have rejected vouchers every chance they get.
This increasing public disillusionment with private school vouchers severely hampers proponents’ arguments that private school vouchers are the answer to the country’s educational woes. In fact, given the public opposition to taxpayer-funded private schools, it is more evident that legislators pushing vouchers are serving their ideological needs, rather than the needs of their constituents.