According to a recent poll released by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice a disconnect exists between voters and their representatives in Texas when it comes to school choice policies. Although education reform proposals – including increasing access to private schools for students across the state – have inspired some bitter debate in the state Legislature, more than half of Texas voters expressed support for such policies.
The survey, which was conducted on Friedman Foundation's behalf by Braun Research, Inc, found that 66% of voters supported school vouchers, with 80% of Latino voters believing that children Texas would serve its students best by expanding access. The results are based on 613 landline and cell phone interviews in late March of this year. More than 70% also supported programs like tax credits for businesses that donate to non-profit groups that give scholarships to students to attend private school.
As for the quality of K-12 education in the state, 55 percent of voters said it is on the "wrong track" whereas 33 percent see it moving in the "right direction." A similar percentage, 54 percent, labeled the state's public school system as "fair" or "poor," with 42 percent identifying it as "good" or "excellent."
"Texans believe that every child should have a chance to attend a school that best addresses their specific needs," Brooke Rollins, president and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said. "Even an excellent public school may not be the best fit for addressing the needs of every student in its district. Unfortunately, Texas' education system provides too few opportunities for families seeking alternatives to their local public school."
Commenting on the poll results, Robert Enlow, the Friedman Foundation's president and chief executive officer expressed frustration with the fact that Texas policies were so friendly to free enterprise but didn't support similarly liberal policies when it came to education reform. As Enlow pointed out, in this issue, lawmakers tended to lag well behind the opinion of people who had put them in office.
Both houses of the Texas Legislature are currently considering limited school choice measures.
The Senate Education Committee has approved bills that would create a tax-credit scholarship program and a voucher program for students with special needs. The House Ways & Means Committee is considering its own tax-credit scholarship bill. As the end of the legislative session approaches, it is unclear whether these bills will be allowed to come to a full vote in their respective chambers.
The survey's questionnaire, full results, and methodology are available at www.edchoice.org/TXpoll.