Magazine article Church & State

Voucher Support Grows, but Americans Still Harbor Reservations

Magazine article Church & State

Voucher Support Grows, but Americans Still Harbor Reservations

Article excerpt

Supporters of voucher plans that would allow taxpayer funds to underwrite religious and other private schools are touting a new poll that suggests that public opinion might be turning in their favor.

According to the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools released in early September, the percentage of Americans who oppose allowing "parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense" has declined. Forty-four percent of poll respondents favored the idea while 52 percent were opposed. This is significantly different than the results of the sage survey done in 1993, when only 24 percent of respondents favored public funding of private school education while 74 percent opposed it.

However, voucher critics found those results to be somewhat questionable. This year's poll, they said, produced different results when respondents were asked if they favored private education at "public expense" and later at "government expense." Critics concluded that the fact that more people supported the notion of "government" funding for these programs as opposed to "public" funding, even though they are the same thing, suggests a great deal of confusion about this issue.

The survey results also contained information that should give voucher boosters pause. Voucher advocates often argue that vouchers will increase competition and thus improve education in public schools. However, when people were asked in this study whether academic achievement in local public schools would improve, get worse, or remain the same after students left to go to private schools, 70 percent said achievement would "remain about the same. …

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