Although charter schools are a relatively recent innovation in Illinois, and although their numbers are severely limited under legislation approved in 1996, they are viewed positively by almost four out of five Chicago residents (78 percent) and three out of four suburban Cook County residents (75 percent), according to a new survey conducted by the Metro Chicago Information Center.
A full 63 percent of Chicago residents and 53 percent of suburban Cook County residents also support the use of vouchers to allow poor children to attend religious schools–a surprisingly strong endorsement in light of the demonization of vouchers by opponents of school choice, including the Illinois Education Association.
An even larger majority of Cook County residents–69 percent of Chicago respondents and 61 percent of those in the suburbs–approve of the use of vouchers by low-income students at secular private schools. In the six-county Chicago metropolitan area, 62 percent support vouchers for low-income children to attend private schools, and 55 percent support vouchers for use at religious schools.
Support for vouchers falls among Chicago residents if all students, not just those from low-income families, were made eligible. Forty-nine percent of Chicagoans support non-means-tested vouchers for private schools, and 48 percent for religious schools.
The MCIC survey polled over 3,000 households in the six-county Chicago region, with most respondents selected by random digit dialing and interviewed by phone. A supplementary random sample of households without telephones was interviewed in person, with interviews conducted in English and Spanish. Additional information about the Metro Chicago Information Center is available by calling 312/580-2874 or by visiting the website at http://www.mcic.org.
George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].