Voters in Pennsylvania believe giving parents the power to pick their children’s schools improves the quality of education, and they support publicly funded school choice options as well. And support for these policies is even higher among African Americans than the overall population.
That’s the finding of a new study of attitudes in five key, swing states — Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin — as the November election approaches.
The Manhattan Institute, a free-market think tank, reports that between 66-to-70 percent of respondents support the concept of publicly funded K–12 school choice. That number goes up to 65-to-77 percent among black voters.
Among Pennsylvania voters, those numbers are 66 percent overall and 77 percent among black voters – 57 percent of whom believe school choice increases the overall quality of education for all students.
“It is no wonder that public support for school choice continues to grow,” Bob Lysek, board president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, told Delaware Valley Journal. “The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the need for educational options for families. The one-size-fits-all education, offered by many school districts, no longer works in our world.”
In Pennsylvania, 23 percent of black public school students attend charter schools. And 45 percent of the state’s black voters say parents are given too little choice by the education system.
“School choice is needed now more than ever. The public school system is leaving millions of families out to dry at the worst time possible,” says Corey DeAngelis of the Reason Foundation. “It shouldn’t surprise us that more and more families are starting to realize that there isn’t any good reason to fund institutions when we can fund students directly instead.”
After years of support for charter schools under President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party has been turning against these education choices. The 2020 Democratic Party platform calls for a ban on for-profit charter schools from receiving federal dollars and “more stringent guardrails” regulating these schools. Congressional Democrats have tried to kill funding for the $440 million Charter Schools Program.
In response, Dr. Howard Fuller is a distinguished professor of education at Marquette University and co-chair of the Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools, released a public letter to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden:
“Joe Biden, you and your Democratic Party are sending a message to the families of public charter schools that we don’t matter because our educational choices go against the status quo,” Fuller wrote. “We know our coffers aren’t as deep as the teachers unions’; however, our votes matter just as much. Vice President Biden, you are sending the message that you do not support the right of Latino and black parents to make these critically important, and potentially lifesaving, choices for their children.”
Critics of school choice and charter schools often point to a 2019 study by the Center for Research on Education Options (CREDO) at Stanford University purporting to find a typical charter school student reaches similar gains in reading but weaker gains in math, compared with students in traditional public schools (TPS).
“However, a deeper analysis of the results reveals that Pennsylvania’s charter school landscape is defined by notable bright spots and failures,” the Manhattan Institute reports. “Urban charter school students exhibit growth in reading equivalent to 35 more days of learning, compared with urban TPS counterparts. Black charter school students experienced a statistically significant increase in learning gains (24 more days) in reading, compared with black TPS students.”