New charter school survey shows parents want choice

Parents are more likely to support candidates whose educational values align with theirs, regardless of party, the May 2022 survey makes clear.

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Parents want more school choice, safer schools and are more likely to support candidates whose educational values align with theirs, regardless of political party, according to a new study.

The Harris Poll conducted the survey, titled “Never Going Back: An Analysis of Parent Sentiment on Education,” in May 2022, querying more than 5,000 American parents of school-aged youngsters for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. This effort follows a 2021 poll that showed students were leaving their districts’ public campuses for other educational offerings, including charter schools. The alliance commissioned the most recent study to find the reasons behind the trend.

A new survey makes clear that parents are more likely to support political candidates whose educational values align with theirs, regardless of their party. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

“Parents want options for their children,” Debbie Veney, senior vice president of communications and marketing at the alliance, told TheGrio. “They are not ideologically rigid.”

“They are not, particularly, preferring one type of an educational experience over another,” Veney continued. “They want the option to do what is best for them as parents. They want options for their children.”

The study’s findings include:

  • Some 86 percent of parents want other school options for their children beyond the districts to which they’re assigned.
  • Since the pandemic, homeschooling and charter school were the first and second most popular options for parents who decided to switch their child’s school. Nearly six in 10 parents said their child was happier as a result of the switch.
  • Parents want safe schools, with nearly 80 percent calling safety “absolutely essential.”
  • Some 83 percent of parents say education has become a political issue, and they’re willing to vote for candidates who agree with their educational views, regardless of party. Moreover, parents surveyed say only taxes is a more important issue to them than education.  
  • Some 84 percent of parents say charter schools should be available to them, regardless of whether they plan to utilize them.

Veney noted that during the pandemic, parents became increasingly involved in the debates affecting their children, including whether schools should stay open or if students should wear masks in the classroom. 

Since then, political candidates have become more vocal and aligned with positions they believe parents — their constituents — care about most.

Veney also noted a shift among Black parents, as 80 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for a political candidate whose views on education aligned with theirs, regardless of their party.

“Black people have been very reliable Democrats,” Veney said. “We’ve been more concerned with other issues like healthcare and the economy, so candidates could kind of do whatever they wanted to do on education. Now, that has changed. I was kind of stunned to hear it, actually.”

Debbie Veney, senior vice president of communications and marketing for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. (Photo: Submitted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

She said Black parents “are making this conscious choice because the party that we have been backing does not have our back.”

It’s true that some Democrats have been vocal about the need for more school choices, with Veney mentioning New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker and South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn among them.

But she noted that in some quarters, Black parents feel “we are suffering, our babies can’t read, we don’t have access to good schools, and the party that’s willing to do that for us is Republican. So I’m going to put my vote on the person who is going to take care of my kids.”

Veney said the prioritization of safety surprised her, as 77 percent of survey respondents rated safety as absolutely essential. Quality of education, at 58 percent, came next.

The survey didn’t define safety, so that could mean anything from bullying to unsafe neighborhoods to school shootings. The poll was reportedly in the field when the Robb Elementary School shooting occurred in Uvalde, Texas, leaving 21 people dead and 17 injured, but Veney said she had no data showing whether that tragedy impacted survey responses.

She noted that the poll didn’t ask only about charter schools because the alliance wanted a broader picture of why students leave public schools.

According to the alliance research, 1.4 million students left public schools during the first year of the pandemic, while 240,000 enrolled in charters, an increase Veney called “a big number of us.”

When students left public schools, they went into homeschooling first, followed by charters and then private schools.

“We saw that there was much more homeschooling with Black, brown and low-income parents and that matched up with where there were no other options to send their children” to school, Veney said.

For her, the results point to one conclusion: “We’re seeing people wanting better options for their children.”

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