Strong Support for School Choice

Posted on Dec 16 2009 in General by Anne Miller

- By Yvonne Bunn, HEAV director of homeschool support and legislative affairs

Although 90% of Virginia’s school-age population attend government schools, many families would change that if they could.

According to a newly released study, School Choice Survey: Virginia’s Opinion on K-12 Education and School Choice (released by the Friedman Foundation in November 2009), Virginia parents support educational freedom and school choice.

39% of the parents with children in public school would choose another form of education, while 40% are satisfied with their child’s education. The survey results reveal a major disconnect between the preferences of parents and actual school enrollments.[1]

  • school-choice-survey40% of parents say they would choose a regular public school for their child. However, approximately 90% of Virginia’s K-12 students attend regular public schools.[2]
  • 39% of K-12 parents say they would like to send their child to a private school. In reality, approximately 9% of Virginia’s K-12 students attend private schools.[3]
  • 11% of parents in the survey would prefer to homeschool their children. According to data collected by the Virginia Department of Education, close to 2% of school-age children are homeschooled.[4]
  • 8% of parents say they would like to send their child to a charter school. Currently there are only three charter schools in operation in Virginia, serving approximately 190 students.[5]

The survey also reveals many parents have succumbed to the “not-my-school” syndrome. The same survey participants who believe there are problems with the government-run system don’t think things are as bad in their child’s school as in other schools. 62% of Virginians believe their school is “good” or “excellent.” But if given the chance to send their children to a private or charter school, or to homeschool, then 54% said they would make a change. Residents in Northern Virginia shared the most positive views of government schools (70%).

Interestingly, the survey indicates a majority (65%) of tax-paying survey participants underestimate how much it costs to educate public school children in Virginia. 19% believe it costs less than $3,000, and 28% believe it costs between $3,001 and $6,000. In reality, the average cost to educate a child in Virginia in 2007 was close to $12,000 per student.

The entire survey can be reviewed here.

[1] The subgroup “K-12 Parents” makes up 31% of the total survey sample (n=367).

[2] Regular public school enrollment (2007-2008) obtained from the Virginia Department of Education (VDE): http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/dbpubs/Fall_Membership/2007/readme.htm.

[3] Private school enrollment estimate obtained from Stephen Broughman, Nancy Swaim, and Patrick Keaton, Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results From the 2007-08 Private School Universe Survey (NCES 2009-313). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences (U.S. Department of Education. 2009), Table 15.

[4] Homeschooling data from the document posted on the Virginia Department of Education website: http://www.heav.org/assets/files/law/Homeschool-Numbers-2008-2009.pdf.

[5] Virginia’s charter school information obtained on the Virginia Department of Education website: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/Instruction/OCP/charterschools.html.

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