Illinois Residents Want School Choice: Poll

Published February 1, 2008

When it comes to education, the people of Illinois want options, according to a survey of 1,500 people statewide.

Released in December, the survey was a joint effort of the Indiana-based Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation, the Illinois Policy Institute, School Choice Illinois, and six other organizations. The survey results appear on page 5.

The survey, which posed questions about K-12 education, tax credit scholarships, and school vouchers, was conducted by Strategic Vision, LLC, an Atlanta-based public relations firm that specializes in polling.

More than half the respondents rated the current public school system as either “fair” or “poor.” That bleak opinion was most prevalent among Chicago residents.

“Most interesting is, if given a choice, most taxpayers indicate they would choose to have their children educated in a setting other than a public school–four out of five, in fact,” said Collin Hitt, director of education policy and reform at the Illinois Policy Institute. “Considering the current system has about 85 percent of schoolchildren enrolled in public schools, there’s a huge disconnect between what people want and what they have to take.”

School Funding Is Adequate

Even though people in Illinois are dissatisfied with regular public schools, they don’t think funding is the problem. Sixty-three percent of respondents said the current level of funding for public schools is “about right” or “too high.”

Support among survey respondents for the vehicles that would give them the most of both–school vouchers and tax credit scholarships–was also strong.

More than half of survey respondents would support a corporate tax credit scholarship program, with 9 percent of respondents saying they would “strongly support” such a proposal in Illinois and 45 percent saying they would “somewhat favor” such an idea.

Sixty-two percent of survey respondents said they had heard about vouchers in K-12 education, and more than half favored the voucher approach. Twelve percent said they would “strongly support” vouchers in Illinois, while 39 percent said they were “somewhat favorable” to the approach. Thirty-five percent were “somewhat unfavorable,” and 14 percent rated themselves “strongly unfavorable” to it.

Choice Information Needed

“We see this all over. There’s a disconnect between the people who want choice and the programs necessary to give them choice,” Hitt said. “The role of think tanks and parent organizations is to close that gap. We see it with charter schools, tax credits, and vouchers. The more people know about tax policy, the more they favor choice.

“There are more people who want choice than there are people who understand what the policies for school choice need to be,” Hitt continued. “Advocates really need to step up their educational efforts to inform parents about what school choice programs are.”

The poll was conducted from November 9 to November 11, 2007 and carried a sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Aricka Flowers ([email protected]) writes from Illinois.

For more information …

“Illinois’ Opinion on K-12 Education and School Choice,” prepared by Paul DiPerna, Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation, December 2007: