AUSTIN – School choice may be a contentious topic in the legislature, but a new survey shows more than half of Texas voters (66 percent) favor increasing student access to private schools. The poll, released by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, reveals mixed reviews on the quality of K-12 education and particularly strong support for school choice among Hispanic voters.
The “Texas K-12 & School Choice Survey” finds 66 percent of voters support school vouchers, which allow parents to use their children’s public education funds for private school tuition; 27 percent oppose vouchers. Support is strongest among Latino voters, 80 percent of whom favor vouchers.
The statewide survey, conducted by Braun Research, Inc., includes 613 landline and cell phone interviews completed March 19-27, 2013, with a margin of sampling error of ± 4.0 percentage points. The poll also shows high favorability for tax-credit scholarships, a policy that provides tax credits for donations made to scholarship-giving nonprofits—72 percent are in favor, with 20 percent opposed.
“Texas might make headlines for the economic opportunities it provides, but it is severely lacking in the educational opportunities it offers families, especially those in need,” Robert Enlow, the Friedman Foundation’s president and CEO, said. “Texas voters want a great education for their kids and the freedom to choose the schools that work best for them. They deserve, and want, more than what the status quo has to offer.”
As for the quality of K-12 education in the state, 55 percent of voters said it is on the “wrong track” whereas 33 percent see it moving in the “right direction.” A similar percentage, 54 percent, labeled the state’s public school system as “fair” or “poor,” with 42 percent identifying it as “good” or “excellent.”
“Texans believe that every child should have a chance to attend a school that best addresses their specific needs,” Brooke Rollins, president and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said. “Even an excellent public school may not be the best fit for addressing the needs of every student in its district. Unfortunately, Texas’ education system provides too few opportunities for families seeking alternatives to their local public school.”
The Senate Education Committee has approved bills that would create a tax-credit scholarship program and a voucher program for students with special needs. The House Ways & Means Committee is considering its own tax-credit scholarship bill. As the end of the legislative session approaches, it is unclear whether these bills will be allowed to come to a full vote in their respective chambers.
The survey's questionnaire, full results, and methodology are available at http://edchoice.org/TXpoll.