School vouchers — taxpayer-provided funds that help low-income students attend private schools — are finding support in the most unlikely of states: California.
A recent poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California and the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that 60 percent of adults and 66 percent of public school parents in the state believe that low-income families do not have a choice as to which schools their children attend.
Most respondents polled (55 percent) also support government-funded subsidies such as tax-credit scholarships and vouchers to reverse this inequity.
The survey revealed bi-partisan support for government subsidies in the form of vouchers with 67 percent of Republicans in favor as well as 46 percent of Democrats. African Americans overwhelmingly support vouchers (73 percent), as well as Latinos (69 percent). 56 percent of Asians and 51 percent of whites supported vouchers, according to the poll.
Low-income families of color, especially those in states with established school choice programs, have become the strongest advocates for school choice. Too often, these are the families trapped in school districts with persistently poor-performing public schools.
In a blue state that has rejected past voucher propositions twice, these poll results show that the tide of public opinion on school choice may be turning.
In 2000, 71 percent of voters rejected voucher proposal, but few successful (or any) school choice programs had been passed at that time. Today, 15 states plus D.C. have voucher programs, and 18 states have tax-credit scholarship programs that give low-income families private school choice.
EdSource quotes Lance Izumi, Senior Director of the pro-school choice Pacific Research Institute’s Center for Education, as saying that the poll, “shows that when it comes to education and education reforms, California does not conform to the easy blue state stereotype. The fact that by more than 20 percentage points a large majority of Californian voters favors school-choice vouchers or tax credits for low-income students indicates that Californians understand that traditional public schools are failing to improve the achievement of poor kids.”
The Trump administration’s Department of Education has touted the ability of vouchers to improve quality of education and expand choices for low-income families.