What do parents really want?

Seventy-seven percent of parents “choose strong neighborhood public schools over expanding choice, charters and vouchers, concludes a survey by the American Federation of Teachers, Public School Parents on the Promise of Public Education.

That contradicts research by less-biased groups, writes Daniela Fairchild on Education Gadfly.

It “finds,” for example, that just 24 percent of parents support school choice—dramatically fewer than other recent polls report. The latest Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup poll, conducted in August 2012, found that 66 percent of Americans supported charters and 44 percent are warm to private school choice. And the 2012 PEPG/Education Next survey concurred: Sixty-two percent of Americans favor charter schools.

So why the disconnect? . . . The AFT’s poll asks parents to choose between “good public schools” that offer “safe conditions” and an “enriching curriculum” and private schools paid for “at the public expense.” The former—naturally—won the day.

Other AFT questions are riddled with the same problem (see Terry Moe’s excellent book for more on how question framing pre-determines answers).

The vast majority of African-American voters in the South strongly support school choice, according to a survey by the Black Alliance for Educational Options. As the name suggests, BAEO supports school choice.

In Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi, 85 percent to 89 percent of those surveyed wanted as many educational choices as possible.  A majority — 55 percent to 57 percent — said they would choose a different school for their child.

Like AFT, BAEO got the answers it wanted.


About Joanne


  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    Certainly, you have to look at who’s doing the polling, and the methodology.
    But the AFT’s 77% misses the point. If strong neighorbood schools–defined differently by different parents, I expect–were available, the other options would have less support.
    This is so obvious that it’s hard to think the AFT missed it. They have to have noticed it and, if they think the rest of us would notice it, they’d have left it out. But they didn’t, so they hope the point misses us.
    To put it another way 77% would love to have strong neighborhood schools. Leaves the question of how many would say they have strong neighborhood schools, which is the issue.
    Of course, we have to pony up more money to get those, the AFT would say, if caught.

    • Exactly. Who wouldn’t want a great, free, school across the street? But it’s a pipe dream. And we all have different ideas of what constitutes ‘great.’

  2. … private schools paid for “at the public expense.” …

    Just moved into a new house, 10 days after closing, I got the bill for local taxes for the coming year. 90% of them go to the local public school…

    Looks to me like public schools are also paid for “at the public expense” …

    Maybe they’re talking about how charters get money and it comes out of the public school budget. Funny thing, in some states, charter students often run at a profit for public schools – not all of the state and federal PPR flows to the charter, some is retained by the public school.

  3. “Like AFT, BAEO got the answers it wanted”

    Be that as it may, somebody’s got to be right and somebody’s got to be wrong.

    I’m inclined to credit President Obama’s estimate of support for educational choice in his choice, and continued support over strenuous NEA objections, of Arne Duncan.

    That guy is still running around talking up educational choice which suggests strongly to me that the BAEO survey’s closer to the truth then is the AFT’s. If the Democratic party loses its virtual lock on the black vote, as it might if it’s seen to be siding with the NEA/AFT against parental choice, then it’s done as a national party.