EDITORIAL: Support grows for school choice

Public support for school choice has increased markedly over the past five years. That’s according to a new poll from Education Next. That’s welcome news for Nevada parents seeking better education options for their children.

Education Next asked if the public would support a universal voucher program. It defined that as allowing public school students to attend a private school with “government helping to pay the tuition.” In 2013, public support was split 43 percent in favor and 37 opposed. Support and opposition hovered around that level until this year when it jumped to 54 percent in favor and just 31 percent opposed.

Democrat support for this form of school choice grew from 41 percent in 2013 to 47 percent in 2018. Just 35 percent now say they oppose such a program.

Regardless of political party, a whopping 67 percent of Hispanics supported universal school choice, with 54 percent of African-American respondents. Support among whites was at 53 percent. Interestingly, whites with incomes under $75,000 and without a four-year degree were both more supportive of school choice then their wealthier and better-educated counterparts. Perhaps those who are more likely to be zoned to lower-performing schools are more willing to support reforms that would help them send their children to better schools.

This wasn’t a small poll either. It had a gargantuan sample of 4,601 adults. For comparison, Gallup’s weekly poll of presidential approval ratings uses a 1,500-person sample.

These findings echo the results of a Nevada-specific poll done earlier this year. Fifty-nine percent of Nevadans supported the state’s tax-credit scholarship program. At 73 percent, Hispanic support of school choice once again outpaced the general public. A 2015 poll by Ed Choice, at the time called the Friedman Foundation, found similar levels of support for Education Savings Accounts, another form of school choice.

Numbers like these show that school choice doesn’t need to be a partisan issue. Parents — regardless of their political persuasion — want better options for their children. Too many Democrats, however, have reflexively sided with a traditional Democrat ally, teacher unions. Teacher unions oppose choice because empowering parents threatens the public school monopoly, which they use to collect union dues. The school system, however, exists to help children, not adults. These poll numbers show Democrat voters would support left-leaning lawmakers who prioritize helping children above protecting a special interest group.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet in Nevada. Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt strongly supports school choice. Steve Sisolak, his Democrat opponent, strongly opposes it. He has promised not to fund Nevada’s ESA program.

Nevada voters who want school choice must make their voices heard at the ballot box.

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