Most millennials view school choice programs favorably, a new study has found.
The authors of the EdChoice “2016 Schooling in America” report included an expanded sampling of millennials, those born between 1981 and 1997, “in an effort to better understand where this generation of current and future school parents compares with others (and the national average) on K–12 education policies.”
Millennials, the authors write, “are approximately 75 million strong, and the percentage of millennials that make up America’s school parent population is set to grow exponentially over the next 10 years.”
Sixty-one percent of millennials said they favor vouchers, compared to a national average of 56 percent; 63 percent of millennials said they favor charter schools, compared to 59 percent among all age groups; and 57 percent of millennials said they favor education savings accounts, compared to 49 percent overall. Fifty-eight percent of millennials said U.S. education is on the wrong track, while 62 percent of the overall population agreed.
Baby Boomers vs. Millennials
Paul DiPerna, EdChoice vice president of research and coauthor of the study, says Americans, and millennials especially, strongly favor school choice.
“Americans are very supportive of school choice, whether it’s education savings accounts, school vouchers, charter schools, or tax credit scholarships,” DiPerna said. “The margins are wide, and so we can be confident about these positive findings. Millennials appear to be the generation most likely to support these different types of school policies across the board. There are some relative differences, particularly between baby boomers and millennials.
“We generally see across the board that Americans are supportive of various types of school choice policies, particularly education savings accounts, where there’s a significant gap in margin of difference between those in favor and those opposed,” DiPerna said. “Whether it’s about education savings accounts, vouchers, charter schools, or tax credit scholarships, the gaps are even wider when looking at the millennials.”
Millennials Used to Choice
Drew Catt, director of state research and policy analysis at EdChoice and a coauthor of the study, is himself a millennial. Catt says millennials’ support for school choice is a natural reflection of the option-rich lifestyle to which they’re accustomed.
“For me, even when I go grocery shopping, my parents went to one store and bought everything,” Catt said. “I go to the bakery to buy bread, the local ‘meatery’ to buy my meats and cheeses. I buy my produce from the local farmer’s market. I’m not necessarily going to one brick-and-mortar facility to get all my goods or services, but I’m looking at what’s the best available and the best for me and my preferences, my lifestyle, and my price range. Millennials are used to thinking about the world this way and deciding what’s best for them and their individual families or their student.”
DiPerna says millennials are used to having things customized.
“Technology has caused so much more ability to customize your lifestyle, and millennials came of age when the internet [allows] personalization of lifestyle, and being empowered with choice could carry forward even beyond to when they get older,” DiPerna said.
Andrew D. Catt and Paul DiPerna, “2016 Schooling in America Survey: Public Opinion on K–12 Education and School Choice,” EdChoice, October 6, 2016: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/2016-schooling-in-america-survey-public-opinion-on-k12-education-and-school-choice?source=policybot