Private Schools at Public Expense? No Way! Vouchers? Why Not!

Apr 24, 2017 12:00:00 AM


In a cheeky segment on the Jimmy Kimmel show, an interviewer asked random people on Hollywood Boulevard whether they prefer “Obamacare” or its official name, the “Affordable Care Act” (ACA). Several people eagerly supported the ACA but pushed back hard on Obamacare. So it is with vouchers, which are increasingly popular, depending on how you word the question. When PDK/Gallup asked in 2015, “Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?” 57 percent were opposed while 31 percent were in favor. A year later, Education Next asked, “A proposal has been made that would give all families with children in public schools a wider choice, by allowing them to enroll their children in private schools instead, with government helping to pay the tuition,” the general public was evenly split, 45 percent in favor and 44 percent against. In the same poll, parents were more strongly pro-voucher 59 percent to 31 percent. Interestingly, Democrats were even more favorable to vouchers (49 percent to 39 percent) than Republicans (41 percent in favor and 49 percent opposed.) Now we have a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California asking, “Do you favor or oppose providing parents with tax-funded vouchers to send their children any public, private or parochial school they choose?” In this case, 60 percent of Californians polled said yes to vouchers versus 37 percent that said no. Among parents, support for vouchers was even higher (66 percent) and among Hispanics and African-Americans it was over 70 percent. Polling is a tricky science that’s easy to mislead either by improperly choosing or weighting the sample or improperly wording the question. Nevertheless, with a pro-voucher administration in Washington and more than 30 states with some kind of program allowing public dollars to be spent for private education, support for vouchers is likely to rise. If that makes your blood pressure rise, you can at least be thankful that you still have health insurance under Obamacare if not the Affordable Care Act.

Peter Cunningham

Peter Cunningham is the founder of Education Post and serves on its board. He served as Assistant Secretary for communications and outreach in the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration’s first term. Prior to that he worked with Arne Duncan when he was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. Peter is affiliated with Whiteboard Advisors, a DC-based education policy, research and communications firm. He serves on several non-profit boards, including Oakland-based Great Schools, which provides school quality information to parents through a national online platform, The Montessori School of Englewood, a Chicago public charter school, Manufacturing Renaissance, a career education program that trains public high school students for jobs in manufacturing, Unbounded, an organization supporting teachers in schools that are transitioning to higher standards, and, which is focused on financial literacy for students. Peter founded Cunningham Communications, serving public, private and nonprofit clients, worked for political consultant David Axelrod, and was a senior advisor and speechwriter for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. A native New Yorker, Peter began his career as a journalist with small weekly newspapers in New York. He earned an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. in philosophy from Duke University. He is married to artist Jackie Kazarian, and they have two adult children who are proud graduates of the Chicago Public Schools. Peter joined the Education Post board in 2018 after stepping down as the organization's Executive Director.  Meet our board →

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