Americans Favor Competition to Improve Public Schools

Published October 1, 2000

When asked whether spending more money or introducing competition would be more effective in improving education, respondents in a large Portrait of America survey left no doubt they viewed competition–allowing parents to choose schools for their children–as the more effective alternative.

Competition was preferred by nearly a two to one margin over spending more money (52 percent to 27 percent). In addition, 54 percent of respondents thought vouchers were a good idea, and 55 percent said taxes should not be raised to spend more money on education.

The Portrait of America survey, conducted by telephone in July by Rasmussen Research, is significant in that it involved a very large sample of 9,400 adults, of whom 2,029 were parents of public school children, 382 were parents of private school children, and 88 were parents of homeschooled children. The overall margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points, with higher margins of error for the private school and homeschooling samples.

The survey addressed a common criticism raised by critics of school choice: that private schools provide no accountability because they are not monitored by a public school board or another government agency. Only 39 percent of respondents thought this was something to worry about.

In response to another question, 59 percent of respondents said parental choice–where parents could always transfer their children out of schools that are not meeting their needs–was a more effective way of holding schools accountable than having the school overseen by a school board. Only 28 percent thought school board oversight was more effective than having parents choose schools.

When asked where children received a better education, only 33 percent said at public schools, with 43 percent giving the nod to private schools and 11 percent picking home schools. If a moderately priced private school were available at around $300 per month, 18 percent of public school parents would send their children to that school, as would 20 percent of homeschool parents.

Three to four times as many public school parents (27 percent) rated the education their children were receiving as fair to poor as did private school parents (6 percent) and homeschool parents (10 percent). Only 27 percent of public school parents rated their children’s schools excellent, while 64 percent of private school parents and 76 percent of homeschool parents rated their schools excellent.

For more information . . .

The Rasmussen Research Portrait of America Poll is available on the Internet at