Democrats Also Support School Vouchers

Aug 23, 2016 by

A new poll shows Democrats are more likely than Republicans to back school vouchers.

By Lauren Camera –

It turns out that support for school vouchers – long a policy thought to be reserved for the most ardent conservative school choice advocates – is alive and well among Democrats, too.

In fact, according to an annual poll released Tuesday by Education Next, an education policy journal published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School, Democrats are more likely to support vouchers than Republicans, whose backing of the programs has dropped precipitously in recent years.

“The amazing part of this story is that people who identify with the Democratic Party support vouchers more than Republicans do,” said Paul Peterson, director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School and one of the poll’s co-authors.

Overall, 43 percent of the public favored school vouchers that would give low-income families a wider choice – a 12-percentage-point drop since 2012. While the numbers have fluctuated, overall between 2012 and 2016 Republican backing for vouchers fell by 14 percentage points while Democratic backing fell just 9 percentage points.

Education Next

Moreover, 56 percent of Democrats said they support universal vouchers, which would provide school vouchers to all families regardless of income level, compared to just 45 percent of Republicans.


Education Next

The poll focused on other education issues as well, including school choice, the Common Core State Standards, testing and more. The results were culled from about 4,900 respondents, more than 600 of whom are teachers. Notably, the results only reflect those who indicated that they opposed or supported a policy and not those who chose a neutral answer.

Overall support for universal vouchers, however, reached a new low of 50 percent in this year’s poll.

Peterson didn’t provide a definitive answer for why Democrats were more inclined to support vouchers but offered it might have something to do with the fact that more Democrats live in cities where low-income children attend low-performing schools in large numbers.

Traditionally, vouchers have been backed by Republican lawmakers as part of a robust school choice platform. Meanwhile, teachers unions – a traditional ally of Democrats – have blasted voucher policies as undermining public education by diverting funding away from traditional public schools.

“There is an interesting twist to this,” Peterson added, noting that if the word “voucher” was swapped out for “tax credit” – a similar school choice policy that allows parents to use federal or public funding to help send their children to private schools – more people are supportive of the concept, 65 percent, and that support has been relatively constant for the last few years.

Education Next

“We see there is a lot of importance of what you call something,” he said.

That was also the case when it came to the Common Core.

Respondents were split on the Common Core standards, with 50 percent supporting the academic benchmarks. But the results revealed a steady march away from the standards, as 83 percent of respondents supported the Common Core in 2013.

Common Core has been a flashpoint in GOP politics, and as might be expected, those who identify as Republican have made the largest shift away from the standards over the past four years, with 39 percent supporting them in 2016 compared to 82 percent in 2013. The four-year drop among Democrats, while less, is also significant – from 86 percent to 60 percent.

Education Next

“The news is not good for the Common Core supporters, but that needs to be qualified because if you drop the name Common Core and ask about support [for having] the same standards across the states, there we see two-thirds support for the same standards and we don’t see that much of a decline from the previous years,” said Paul Peterson.

Indeed, when the words “Common Core” were not used, two-thirds of respondents favored the use of the same standards across states.

Standardized testing has also evolved into a political lightning bolt over the past several years, manifesting in parents opting their children out from state tests in larger numbers in some school districts.

But the Education Next poll found that there is strong support for using the same standardized test in all states, with 73 percent of the public in favor of uniform testing, while 70 percent are opposed to letting parents opt their children out of state tests – findings that are consistent with 2015 results. However, among teachers, opposition to opting out of exams is lower and has declined from 64 percent in 2015 to 57 percent in 2016.

Education Next

The new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, continues to require states to test students annually in grades 3 through 8 in reading and math, and once in high school – though it does provide incentives for states and school districts to cut back on local testing not mandated under the law. Notably, it allows states to choose their own tests and does not require one universal test.

“When it comes to testing, we also see that the public is supporting the new legislation passed by Congress,” Peterson said.

Source: Surprise: Democrats Also Support School Vouchers | US News

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