Public Schools Lose Support of Idaho Parents

Published June 1, 2008

If the Idaho Public School System were a private business, it would have closed by now, according to a study by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. A survey found that only 12 percent of parents statewide would send their children to public schools if they had other options.

The survey also revealed only 4 percent of parents between the ages of 36 and 55 would use public schools over private or charter schools.

School choice advocates say these findings, released in late March, reveal much about Idaho’s public schools.

“What is significant is that this age group is the primary consumer of public education,” said Bryan Fischer, executive director of Idaho Values Alliance, a public policy research group based in Boise, of the 4 percent group. “These are the people that have their children in the education pipeline. This says the more parents use the Idaho public school system, the less satisfied they are with it, and the more they want to be provided with genuine choice in education.”

Growing Demand

Idaho’s results echo those the Friedman Foundation found in similar polls conducted in Illinois, Nevada, and Tennessee earlier this year. The Indiana-based organization is using the surveys to gauge American attitudes toward school choice.

“It’s about demand, and this is really showing that there is demand for different types of schools when all things are equal in terms of access,” explained Paul DiPerna, the Friedman Foundation’s director of partner services and author of the study. “There is significant demand for charter and private schools. Homeschooling was also in pretty high demand in Idaho. The current system, not just in Idaho but all over the United States, inhibits free choice.

“We believe that the more people know about vouchers, tax scholarships, charter schools, and virtual schooling, the more demand will grow,” DiPerna continued. “It’s really about information, which this survey will also provide. We asked people what they knew about vouchers and charter schools, and not a whole lot of people knew about their options.”

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

For more information …

“Idaho’s Opinion on K-12 Education and School Choice,” by Paul DiPerna, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, March 2008: