Poll Finds Charter Schools Widely and Broadly Popular in Massachusetts

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Residents support repealing anti-aid amendments to state Constitution if it would provide educational options to lower-income families

BOSTON – More than six years after the failure of a statewide ballot initiative that would have increased the number of charter public schools in Massachusetts, charters are popular among the Commonwealth’s residents, according to a new school choice survey commissioned by Pioneer Institute and conducted by Emerson College Polling.

“The survey finds that more than three quarters of state residents believe any student – regardless of family income – who doesn’t respond well to the education practice in their public school should have access to other educational choices,” said Jamie Gass, who directs Pioneer’s Center for School Reform.

Overall, 62 percent either strongly or somewhat favor charter schools, while only 16 percent oppose them. When told that funding follows the student from district to charter schools, the margin of support falls to 53 percent to 27 percent, but the schools continue to draw majority support among Republicans (62 percent) and unenrolled voters (56 percent). Democrats support charters by a 44 percent to 38 percent margin.

When asked if they approve of nativist nineteenth-century amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, adopted in the wake of the arrival of a wave of Irish-Catholic immigrants, that prevent public money from going to private school parents, residents say they support retaining the amendments by a 47 percent to 34 percent margin. But nearly two thirds (66 percent) say they would support repeal of the amendments if it meant lower-income families could have access to more educational choices.

More than three quarters (76 percent) support tax credits for individuals and businesses that make charitable contributions that are then used to provide scholarships to send students to schools of their choice. New Hampshire and Rhode Island are among the 23 states that have such programs.

Residents believe the quality of Massachusetts public schools is high. Nearly half (47 percent) say the schools are of high or very high quality, compared to 14 percent who say public schools are poor or very poor.

The survey of 1,000 Massachusetts residents was conducted between March 31 and April 2, and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.