Approximately nine in ten African-American voters across Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi favor school choice policies, according to a survey published by the Black Alliance for Educational Options. The poll also found between 55 and 58 percent of the 1,700 respondents would not send their children to public schools if they had a choice.
“Middle-class kids get served up mediocrity, and black and Latino communities get even worse,” said education analyst RiShawn Biddle, editor of Drop Out Nation.
Each of the surveyed states but Kentucky currently offers some form of school choice. Alabama offers an online public school and brand new tax-credit scholarships. Louisiana has one of the nation’s largest voucher programs, available to students attending D- or F-rated public schools or special-needs students, a broad array of charter schools, online schools, and tax-credit scholarships. Mississippi allows a limited number of charter schools and offers special-needs vouchers, as well as an online public school.
Pushing for Equal Access
All of the states have large racial achievement gaps, significant minority populations, and lower-performing public schools in general, the survey notes.
“This survey gave BAEO the opportunity to promote the expansion of publicly funded charter school options in states where these options are unavailable or very limited,” said Tiffany Forrester, BAEO’s director of policy and research. “Affluent families have always had access to choice in education, whereas low-income families and black families have not had access to those same options.”
Tax-credit scholarships, such as Alabama’s new program, are the only government-created school choice that uses exclusively private money. They do this by giving individual and business taxpayers a tax credit for donating to nonprofit organizations that in turn grant children K-12 scholarships to private schools.
Alabama’s new program provides that option for students enrolled in or assigned to a failing K-12 Alabama public school, according to the Alabama Policy Institute.
“No matter what poll you look at, black and Latino school communities are far more supportive of school choice than those that are white and have in theory more opportunities for choice,” Biddle says. “Black and Latino communities are those most subject to low-quality schools. For black and Latino families, there is a strong [desire] to have a wide array of opportunity to send their kids to schools that fit their needs.”
Selected Poll Results
- 85-89 percent (depending on the state) of black voters say government should provide parents as many choices as possible to ensure their children receive a good education
- 71-80 percent of black voters supported charter schools after hearing they provide more opportunities to lower-income minority students trapped in failing schools
- 50 percent of all respondents supported charter schools and publicly funded vouchers
- Support for school choice was strongest among younger voters (ages 18-34), people with lower incomes, and those with less formal education.
“A Survey Report on Education Reform,” Black Alliance for Educational Options, July 2013: http://scoter.baeo.org/news_multi_media/20130723-Survey%20Report-NEW%5B9%5D.pdf.
Image by Elvert Barnes.