Massachusetts Residents Want More School Choice

Residents of Massachusetts overwhelmingly support school choice according to the results of a recent poll conducted by DAPA Research. More than three-quarters of those polled favor the creation of a voucher programs, opening of additional charter schools, and even tax breaks for private companies who donate to school choice programs. It doesn’t matter what guise the choice comes in — MA residents believe that parents and students in the state deserve more of it.

The support of choice isn’t as universal as it might initially seem, however. Seventy-six percent believe that the option should be income-restricted, only to those in lower-income and middle-class families. However, 77% also think that kids who don’t respond to traditional teaching methods in public schools should also be able to take advantage of a voucher program or be able to transfer to a charter school that might provider a better academic environment, regardless of income.

“Education is the civil rights issue of our time,” said Jamie Gass, who directs Pioneer Institute’s Center for School Reform. “And Massachusetts voters clearly understand that access to educational opportunity is a prerequisite for fully exercising the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in our democracy.”

The poll also looked at the opinions about the MA constitutional amendment prohibiting the spending of public funds on religious schools, which has, so far, stymied efforts to create a voucher program in the state. According to the results, a slim majority, 51% oppose the amendment, with the majority (27%) strongly opposing, and the rest opposing it somewhat. When the question was posed as a choice between supporting the amendment and allowing a creation of a voucher program to make it possible for needy families to transfer out of failing public schools, the support for the repeal went up more than 10% to 63%.

Among the possible ways to expand school choice in the state, increasing the enrollment in charter schools was, surprisingly, less popular (60%) than the idea of a tax break for individuals and companies who donated to various school choice programs around the state (64%.)

Some 60% of likely voters surveyed said they approve of a law that would “authorize increases in student enrollment for any new or existing public charter school that meets the state’s quality standards and is located in a city or town with a high level of poverty.” Households with children under the age of 18 were more likely to approve of an increase (68%) than households without (55%) by 13 percentage points.

The results were drawn from the answers to a questionnaire filled out by 500 MA likely voters between the 9th and 12th of April, 2012.