Education Editorial: School Choice

By: Bill Bosher - email

The Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute in the Wilder School at VCU conducts an annual poll of Virginian's perceptions of education issues with K-12 schools and colleges. Historically the poll has asked about school choice. Virginians have been evenly divided, but that may be changing. This year sixty-one percent of the more than 800 respondents indicated that they support having more charter schools.

Remember that seventy percent of the homes do not have school age children, but they pay the bills. Also interesting is that the responses did not vary around the level of education, income or party affiliation.  Parents and employees usually default to the public institutions of which they are a part, but this year they only supported they "home base" with narrow majorities.

If you add the responses to questions about control of the school calendar and home-school participation in interscholastic sports, there seems to be a clear trend. This trend is illuminated when asking what type of school Virginians would select if they could make any choice. Forty seven percent said "regular public school". Six percent said they did not know or refused to answer the question, but forty seven percent said that they would chose some other option thirty two percent said private education.

Public institutions and policy makers can challenge these results, fight them, or even regret them, but they cannot ignore them. There seems to be a growing movement in Virginia. People like making their own decisions about education and they would like a bigger menu.

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