School Choice Isn’t Controversial but Opponents Want You to Think It Is

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By Andrew Pillow

It’s school choice week. Many advocates and supporters of school choice have teamed up to raise awareness of the positive impact that options can bring to education.

Naturally, this brings out the opponents of school choice too. We have already covered the anti-school choice arguments in depth on this blog. They are all bad. That doesn’t stop people from regurgitating them every time school choice comes up in a debate.

This constant debate around school choice may lead you to believe school choice is “controversial” or “polarizing” but it’s not. In fact, most Americans support school choice policies. This isn’t just opinion or anecdotal evidence either. It’s supported by several different studies and polls.

The American Federation for Children recently released it’s annual school choice poll results. Around 63 percent of respondents support school choice. 33 percent said they opposed it. The majority of all three major political groups, Republicans, Independents, and Democrats supported school choice.

School choice is often framed as being “bad” for minorities by opponents. According to this survey, those attacks are not working because minorities support choice at an even higher rate than whites. About 60 percent of whites support school choice policies compared to 66 percent of Blacks and a whopping 72 percent of Latinos.

The American Federation for Children is, of course, a pro school-choice organization and that is relevant, but these numbers have been corroborated by other studies too. For example, a fairly recent poll conducted by Education Next found that less than 20% of African Americans oppose charters and vouchers. 

These polls and numbers paint a different picture than the one portrayed by school choice opponents. School choice is not a polarizing issue but school choice opponents want you to believe it is.

If the president had a positive approval rating from Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Baby Boomers and Millennials we would not seriously be debating whether or not he was the most popular president of all time. So, unless we have changed the definition of “controversial” to mean majority support of all major political, age and ethnic groups across the United States then you have to concede school choice isn’t controversial.

This does not mean that school choice is without its detractors. Even if 70% of all groups supported something that is still 30% who don’t. With that being said, it’s important to distinguish the national conversation from the blogosphere. Talking heads and bloggers might be arguing about school choice… but regular people are not. And that is who matters most.   

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.