- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a huge proponent of school choice, and it turns out she’s not alone.

An Education Next survey released Tuesday found rising support for charter schools, taxpayer-funded vouchers, and tax credits for private-school vouchers, programs aimed at expanding options for parents looking beyond traditional public schools.

Ms. DeVos said the survey results show that “American families want more control and more options when it comes to education,” and put in a plug for her Education Freedom Scholarships proposal.

“Clearly, our Education Freedom Scholarships proposal is the solution American families want,” said Ms. DeVos in a statement. “This common-sense approach puts students and parents in control, without taking a single cent from public schools or teachers.”

Proposed in February, the program would provide an annual $5 billion federal tax credit for donations to state-based scholarships for families to help pay for K-12 education, including private school, apprenticeships, special education and tutoring.

“It’s time opponents of education freedom tamped down their overheated political rhetoric and instead focused on improving student outcomes,” said Ms. DeVos. “They should take note that this poll shows students rank the quality of their own schools lower than anyone else does.”

Bills to create such scholarships have been introduced by Rep. Bradley Byrne, Alabama Republican, and Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, which have met with pushback from Democrats and others opposed to even indirect public funding of private and religious schools.

The Education Next poll found that support for vouchers to help low-income families with private-school tuition jumped from 37% in 2016 to 49% in 2019, with 52% of Democrats in favor.

Those favoring tax credits for individuals and organizations that help pay for scholarships for low-income families to send their children to private school increased from 58% to 53% during that period.

Charter schools also saw a boost in support, with 48% saying they favor such schools, up from a low of 39% in 2017.

Not surprisingly, charter schools were more popular with Republicans than Democrats. Among Democrats, there was a race divide: Only 33% of white Democrats favored charter schools, as opposed to 55% of African-American Democrats and 47% of Hispanic Democrats.

The poll also found a surge in support for teacher pay hikes, as well as public spending on education, as well as Common Core standards.

Candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nod have espoused the idea of free college, and those surveyed backed the idea. Sixty percent supported making public four-year college free, and 69% wanted free public two-year college.

The 13th annual Education Next poll surveyed 3,046 U.S. adults, including an “oversampling” of teachers, African Americans and Hispanic Americans, and, for the first time, 415 high school students and their parents.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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