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Poll: Over 75 percent of Alabamians support school choice

In a poll of registered Alabama voters released Tuesday by the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), 76.48 percent of respondents said they support school choice, or “giving parents the opportunity to choose where they send their child to school rather than assigning children to schools based on zip code.”

The poll measured a myriad of other attitudes, mostly education related.

For example, 61.44 percent responded that they support the expansion of charter schools in Alabama, while only 28.74 percent oppose.

In an especially eye-popping survey result, 69.95 percent of respondents advised that they support the Alabama Accountability Act, compared to 23.63 percent who do not support this annual scholarship program that allows families to move their children from failing schools into non-failing public or private schools of their choice.

Senate President Del Marsh (R-Anniston), who sponsored the Accountability Act when it passed the state legislature in 2013, released a statement saying, “It should come as no surprise that parents overwhelmingly want to be able to have the choice to send their children to a school that gives them the optimal chance at success.”

“Although there is no ‘magic bullet’ when it comes to providing quality education, I believe that parents should have as many options as we can give them to send their children to a school that is best suited for their needs,” Marsh added. “It is obvious that they agree.”

The poll also showed that if given the chance, approximately 42 percent would enroll their child in a private or charter school, yet only 18 percent of respondents with school-age children enroll their child in a private or charter school.

Additionally, 67 percent of respondents supported the concept of open enrollment, which would allow students to attend the public school of their choice, while only 25 percent opposed this policy.

ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque stated, “Voters in Alabama believe families should have education options. Whether choosing a public charter school, private school, or another public school of their choice, all families deserve the freedom to select the learning environment where their child will succeed, regardless of their ZIP code or background.”

Conducted February 27-28, the day of and the day after Governor Kay Ivey announced her Rebuild Alabama infrastructure plan in Maplesville, the poll also showed that only 2.9 percent of respondents viewed “high taxes” as the state’s biggest problem.

Instead, 20.49 percent of respondents pointed to affordable healthcare, 14.39 percent to K-12 education and 12.71 to crime and public safety when asked the same question.

A large plurality – 46 percent of respondents – view lack of funding as the state’s biggest obstacle to improving education, while 35 percent pointed to a lack of parental involvement.

In another question, 45.40 graded Alabama’s public K-12 school system with a “C,” while 17.72 percent gave a “D” grade and 4.27 percent graded it “F.” Only 3.43 percent of respondents awarded it an “A.”

You can view a summary of the polling here.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on state education reform.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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