Fifteen years after the first charter law passed, with more than a million students attending nearly 4,000 charter schools, most people think charter schools are private, charge tuition, teach religion and pick and choose their students, writes Rick Hess on Gadfly, citing the Phi Delta Kappan poll. But they like charters anyhow.
Being mislabeled as “private” and selective is damning because Americans embrace what Stanford University political scientist Terry Moe has termed the “public school ideology.” Moe, a staunch advocate of school choice, has reported, for instance, that 41% of non-parents and 40% of public school parents agree with the statement, “The more children attend public schools, rather than private or parochial schools, the better it is for American society.”
. . . Now for the surprise twist. Although most Americans think charters are tuition-charging, student-selecting private schools, a clear majority now tells Gallup that it nonetheless favors charter schooling. When these schools are described as “operat[ing] under a charter or contract that frees them from many of the state regulations imposed on public schools,” respondents supported charters 53% to 34%. Among public school parents, that lead stretched to 28 points-59% to 31%. Among non-parents, charters are favored 50% to 37%.
Support for charters has grown dramatically in the last seven years, Hess writes.