African-American Parents Emphatically Favor School Choice, Survey Finds

Published October 5, 2015

African-American parents overwhelmingly favor school choice, according to a new nationwide report conducted by Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies (BCRS).

Seventy-eight percent of respondents in the report say they would support allowing parents to send their children to the school of their choice using state education tax dollars. Seventy-two percent favor public charter schools, and 70 percent favor a system that would create vouchers parents could use to cover tuition for those who want to enroll their children in a private or parochial school.

African-American parents overwhelming want school choice options to ensure their children receive access to a quality education, says Mendell Grinter, Tennessee state director for the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

“We’ve seen first-hand that when we empower parents to get engaged and explore all of the available education options in their communities, they universally select schools with the highest quality and strongest academic track records to unlock their child’s full potential,” said Grinter.

School choice does not enjoy universal support in black communities, especially where teachers unions exert influence.

James Thindwa, Midwest community engagement coordinator for the American Federation of Teachers, a powerful national teachers union, said, “The idea of choice is very seductive. The question is, do we really want a system that pushes an idea that has winners and losers?”

A greater proportion of African-American respondents in the BCRS survey say they support school choice compared to the proportion of parents who say they are concerned about teacher quality or funding. Nearly four in 10 say a lack of funding has prevented successful educational outcomes in their own community, and 33 percent say there is or has been a lack of quality teachers in local schools.

Low expectations for students and poor student behavior were cited by 34 percent of the respondents.

“When we set high academic standards for our young people, particularly those from underserved communities, they will often meet and exceed those standards,” Grinter said. “Parents are once again in the driver’s seat for their child’s education.”

Support for Choice

Most African-American parents, 56 percent, agree parents should have a public charter option regardless of the effect on traditional public schools.

The survey item stated, “As a parent I should be able to decide which school my child attends. If a public charter school can give my child a better educational opportunity my child shouldn’t be prevented from enrolling just to prop up a failing public system.”

A second, related question revealed only 24 percent favor trying only to improve traditional public schools without giving parents charter options.

When asked to choose between a system that allows only public school choice options or a choice model that includes private schools, 56 percent preferred the latter. Just over one in four said they wanted to limit choice to public schools, strongly suggesting parents care more about obtaining access to a quality education than preserving the current system.

In many low-income areas, transportation is a problem for school choice systems. Survey participants were asked whether they would make sure their child attended a charter school regardless of transportation restraints. Forty-five percent of all respondents say they would. The figure rose to 59 percent for parents who already have children in charter schools.

Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies’ survey had a sample size of 621 and a margin of error of 4 percent. The respondents were all African-American, and neither they nor an immediate family member currently works in a public, private, or parochial school, nor did they homeschool their children. Household income was below $50,000 for 59 percent of the respondents, and 67 percent had not obtained a college bachelor’s degree.

Lennie Jarratt ([email protected]) is the project manager for school reform at The Heartland Institute. This story was originally run by the Urban News Service.

Image by Neon Tommy.

Internet Info

“School Satisfaction Survey: Nationwide Survey of African American Parents,” Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies, August 18, 2015: