Poll Shows Statewide Support for Choice in Arizona

Published March 1, 2007

A strong majority of Arizonans support school choice, according to a poll released in early January on the eve of the state supreme court’s decision not to hear the case against Arizona’s newest educational voucher programs.

Commissioned by the nonprofit Alliance for School Choice and conducted by The Polling Company, a private research corporation based in Washington, DC, the survey of 503 adults statewide revealed 62 percent of Arizonans like the idea of school vouchers.

Additionally, a majority of residents said they support the two newest voucher programs, passed by a Republican-led legislature and signed into law last year by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano:

  • Seventy-six percent said parents of disabled children should be allowed to use state-funded scholarships to send children to the schools of their choice, public or private.
  • Sixty-four percent said foster children should also have that opportunity.

Lack of Awareness

The poll also revealed the average Arizonan’s lack of knowledge about the state’s school tuition tax credit programs, which allow individuals and corporations to make tax-deductible donations to organizations that distribute private school scholarships. Annual deductions are limited to $500 per individual and $5 million per corporation.

The individual tax credit alone generated $42 million last year for scholarships, enough to send about 22,000 kids to the schools of their choice. But according to the survey, only about 25 percent of Arizonans know about the tax credit.

“There is no culture of choice on the ground,” explained Robert Teegarden, director of state projects at the Alliance for School Choice. “Parents of five-year-old kids don’t immediately say, ‘We have three choices for our kids–public school, private school, and homeschool.’ We want to change that.”

Warning About Bureaucracy

Teegarden said he would like to see a simple piece of legislation requiring the Department of Revenue to print a list of deductions and credits for which a taxpayer might be eligible, and include it in all memos to taxpayers.

Teegarden acknowledged parents in Arizona have more choices than other states, but he warned legislators to be careful when writing new laws expanding choice.

“Any public policy you write must be very clear about how the state should implement the policy,” Teegarden said. “Remember the bureaucracy–the foundation of the school monopoly–will be empowered [by the legislation] to implement the program it didn’t want.”

Hilary Masell Oswald ([email protected]) writes from Illinois.

For more information …

The Arizona School Choice Survey, http://azschoolchoice.com/polling.htm

Arizona Voter Attitudes

  • When asked which groups of students most deserve scholarships to attend private schools in Arizona, 55 percent of respondents chose “all students in Arizona.”
  • Thirty-five percent of respondents–the largest group responding to this question–said they consider newspapers and magazines their primary source of information about educational issues.
  • Only 10 percent of respondents said schools are their primary source of information about educational issues.
  • After immigration, education is the most important issue facing Arizona right now, according to respondents.