School choice is overwhelmingly supported by likely Democratic primary voters nationwide, according to a recent poll conducted on behalf of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).
Education analysts interpret the poll results as a rebuke of current Democratic Party strategies nationwide in general and, specifically, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoing more than $36 million of increased charter school funding in the state.
Daniel Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Alternatives (MAPSA), for example, told The Center Square that the poll indicates voters, parents and residents support charter schools because they offer alternatives to one-size-fits all public schools.
“What we’ve seen in polls over the years is a growing strength of support for charter schools among minority Democrats,” Quisenberry said.
Based on a sample of 1,721 likely voters in the 2020 election and an oversample of 1,227 likely Democratic voters, the Benenson Strategy Group conducted poll concluded that 81 percent of Democratic primary voters nationwide support expanding public school options. When broken down by race, 89 percent of African-American Democratic primary voters supported public school options, including charter schools.
Additionally, the poll found 80 percent of voters, including 78 percent of Democratic primary voters and 84 percent of African American Democratic primary voters, support proposals to expand charter schools provided accountability measures are enacted.
“It’s no secret that our public schools need to be better funded, but that’s just the beginning of the story,” Shavar Jeffries, DFER president, said. “The public sees that we need to more fairly fund underserved schools and pay teachers more who teach hard-to-staff subjects and serve in high-need schools.”
According to the poll, “57 percent of all voters say that ‘we need to not only provide more funding for public schools, but also bring in new ideas and make real changes to how schools operate.’”
Additionally, “25 percent say that ‘there’s already enough money going toward public schools, we just need to spend it more effectively.’”
Quisenberry noted that such Democratic presidential candidates as Sen. Bernie Sanders should take heed of the poll.
“Sen. Sanders made headlines last May when he promised he’d institute a federal ban on all for-profit charter schools if he’s elected president,” Quisenberry said. “He also said he’d enforce a moratorium on using tax dollars for charter-school expansions.”
Quisenberry also noted Whitmer axed an increase of $240 per charter school students in Michigan’s 2020 budget, despite the fact every traditional public school will begin receiving that amount per pupil. Charter schools are also public schools and, as such, legally cannot be denied the same per-student appropriation, Quisenberry pointed out.
“It’s a striking contradiction when politicians state they support equitable funding for kids’ education, but consistently work against the best interests of parents, students, residents and voters,” he said.