Education Next Survey Shows Support for Vouchers Rising, Other Reforms Flat

Little Eddie is busy today, so all I’m going to do for today is point you to the results of the 2011 Education Next–PEPG Survey of Public Opinion on school reform issues. The big takeaway?

Our findings reveal more stability than change in public opinion over the five years since the Education Next–PEPG survey began, suggesting that the momentous policy develop­ments of the past year were not caused by—nor have they yet produced—broad changes in popular views. The one exception to that generalization is a significant turnaround in support for school vouchers, which until this year had been in decline.

To be perfectly frank, the results are a mixed bag for reformers and transformers. Support for charter schools, merit pay, tenure reform and tax credits are all about the same as measured in 2010. And support for online learning actually took a small step back.

But the news on vouchers (and given the timing of this week’s court hearing on the Douglas County Choice Scholarship program) is really quite remarkable. When framed as an issue of parental choice, the percentage of respondents favoring vouchers was 47 percent — up from 39 percent last year. When framed as an issue of “students going to private school at public expense,” support was lower at 39 percent — but still higher than 31 percent in 2010.

The trend is appropriate, given that 2011 is the Year of School Choice and all. What’s the cause? The effect? What’s the connection? I don’t know. But lovers of educational freedom should take heart, and policy makers should take notice.