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Alabama survey shows widespread support for school choice, disdain for AEA

(Photo: YouTube screenshot)
(Photo: YouTube screenshot)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A statewide survey recently released publicly by the Alabama Federation for Children, in conjunction with the Black Alliance for Educational Options, indicates widespread support in Alabama for school choice, which promises to be one of the top issues in the 2015 legislative session.

The survey of likely Alabama general election voters, which was conducted by public opinion research firm McLaughlin and Associates, revealed 65% support the concept of school choice, 67% support the tax credit scholarship program created by the Alabama Accountability Act and 58% support expanding the program so additional students can participate. Additionally, 58% agree that all children should have access to these programs, regardless of the school district to which they are assigned.

“These poll results confirm what we learned during this year’s election cycle – Alabama voters not only support choice in education, but want to see even more options for their children,” said Ryan Cantrell, State Director for the Alabama Federation for Children. “During the last election cycle, the Alabama Education Association spent tens of millions of dollars demonizing the programs created by the Alabama Accountability Act. But voters know better and understand how important it is to have a choice when it comes to the education of their children.”

The survey also showed support for the AEA eroding significantly in recent years.

A plurality of voters (45%) currently have a negative opinion of the AEA, while just 39% are favorable. That’s down from 52% favorable and 37% unfavorable just two years ago.

“The Alabama Education Association has a net negative opinion rating and voters are more inclined to believe it is more concerned with politics than doing what is best for students,” the survey’s summary states.

Also of note, 84% of voters agreed that “the AEA should stop spending tens of millions of dollars on political campaign and instead should use that money to help Alabama’s students.”

The AEA spent roughly $20 million on Alabama legislative races during the 2014 cycle.

The survey’s results are particularly significant because of the attention that Republicans are expected to give to expanding school choice in 2015.

Alabama is one of only eight states in the country that does not currently allow charter schools, which are publicly funded but operated by independent, non-government groups. They are open to all children, do not charge tuition and do not have special requirements for admission.

What advocates say they do have, however, is the freedom to get out from under burdensome government regulations and the bureaucracy to which many public schools are beholden. They have more flexibility when it comes to curriculum and the hours they meet, and are not bound by teachers’ union contracts, which gives them more leeway with regard to what teachers they hire and fire.

But in exchange for that flexibility, the schools must meet tough accountability standards. If a school does not meet the standards, it is closed, which has happened in roughly 15 percent of charters around the country.

They are called “charter schools” because they enter into a “charter” with the state that details the general terms outlined above.

For more details on the latest school survey results, click here.

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