As parents are getting backpacks ready and kids are heading off for another school year, there are tons of stories on social media about their excitement (okay, maybe not for every kid), their love for their school and general school spirit. I’m sure this is true for students at all kinds of schools – district public, charter public, and private.
All parents want the best for their children, and allowing them to choose a public school, rather than be assigned to one based on their address, empowers them to get involved and invested. That’s why I’m not at all surprised that the most recent EdNext poll of a nationally representative sample of the general public and teachers found, once again, that, despite all the negativity in the media, positive feelings towards charter schools remain consistently high. The survey found that some hot button issues, such as Common Core standards or teacher tenure, that were once the latest cool thing, have seen their support fall way off. But allowing more parents the option to send their child to a high-quality charter school is something that at least two-thirds of people can get behind.
Last spring, we conducted our own survey of a nationally representative sample of parents and our results showed even stronger support. In fact, about 80 percent of the parents surveyed said they strongly support allowing a parent to choose which public school in their community their child attends, regardless of where they live, including 82 percent of Black parents and 84 percent of Hispanic parents. We also found that over 70 percent have a favorable opinion of charter schools and a similar percentage would be in favor of having one open in their community, regardless of whether they are already there or not.
What I found to be interesting in our survey results, was that the negative responses – the “do not favor,” “oppose,” “strongly oppose” – were a consistent 10-15 percent of responses. These are the folks who just don’t want charter schools under any conditions and there’s not as many of them as you might guess. The problem is that they are the ones who are monopolizing the media, filing lawsuits to close down all charter schools (in Mississippi, Missouri, and Washington), and ramping up the use of heated rhetoric, with words like “privatization” and “corporate greed.”
But on the front lines, where parents are working hard to get the best education possible for their children, the negativity isn’t working. In a 2011 federal government survey, nearly two-thirds of parents whose children were in a chosen public school reporting being “very satisfied” with the school. And the EdNext survey has shown a consistent level of support at 65 percent for several years. Another annual survey, by Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup, has very similar findings – 64 percent of Americans favor charter schools. It’s important that we continue to make sure that those voices get heard above the chatter.