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School Choice: Public Opinion in Five Battleground States

Executive Summary

The Manhattan Institute commissioned Rasmussen Reports to include nine questions related to school choice and charter schools in their late August–early September polling of likely voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina. Among these states, 46%–52% of the respondents said that they believe that giving parents the right to choose their children’s school raises the overall quality of K–12 education for students; 18%–20% believe that it lowers educational quality. Black respondents were more likely to believe that school choice raises educational quality.

Between 66% and 70% of all respondents supported the concept of publicly funded K–12 school choice. This support was higher among black respondents in all states but North Carolina.

Between 51% and 62% of all respondents supported state funding of charter schools as an alternative to traditional local district-managed public schools. This support was higher for black respondents in all states and ranged from 58% to 67%.

Across the five states, actual enrollment in charter schools accounts for 7.3% of all students in charter and district-managed public schools. In Michigan, 9.6% of public school students attend charters; in Wisconsin, 4.9% do. Across the five states, 17.3% of black public school students attend charters, over 3.8 times the rate of white students. In four of the surveyed states, black students are the group most likely to enroll in charters. In North Carolina, the number of white students enrolled in charters is slightly higher than that of black students. In Michigan, 27% of black public school students attend charters; in Pennsylvania, 23% of black students in public schools attend charters.

National research indicates that urban charter schools achieve significantly higher levels of growth in math and reading than their district school peers. This is particularly true for lower-income children of color and those with special needs. Charters in nonurban areas, and those operating as virtual schools, do not show this advantage.

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Each survey was conducted of 1,000 Likely Voters by Rasmussen Reports on the following dates: Pennsylvania - August 25-27, 2020, Ohio and Wisconsin, September 1-2, 2020, Michigan - September 2-3, 2020 and North Carolina - September 7-8, 2020. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence for each survey. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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