MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Republican voters in Alabama support charter schools and the expansion of school choice more broadly, according to a new poll shared with Alabama Daily News.
The survey was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of Alabama Families for Great Schools, a non profit organization that advocates for charter schools.
Asked their opinion, 52% of Republican Primary voters said they support increasing the number of charter schools in Alabama, compared to 21% who said they oppose the idea. That support climbs to 68% after voters have been read an explanation about what charter schools do.
Charter schools are public schools run by private or non profit entities that are given special exemptions from education laws in order to enhance quality or specialize in a course of study.
Support for increasing the number of charter schools was highest among those who identified as very or somewhat conservative and lowest among those who identified as moderate or liberal. A full 67% said they have a favorable view of school choice more broadly, compared to just 11% who had an unfavorable view.
Emily Schultz, executive director of Alabama Families for Great Schools, said the results are encouraging going into a legislative session in which school choice promises to be a key issue.
“AFGS conducted this poll to confirm what school choice supporters already suspected: there is significant support for empowering parents to choose the school that best fits their child,” Schultz told Alabama Daily News. “We look forward to working with Governor Ivey and Alabama lawmakers to improve our public charter school law and allow their tax dollars to follow their students to their school of choice. ”
The poll showed Republican voters agreeing with the concept of tax money following students equally. A full 58% said they agreed that charter school students should receive the same amount of state and local funding as district public school students, while just 26% said they shouldn’t.
Republican voters have a more negative view of the state’s education system in general than for their own local district schools. Just 43% said public schools in Alabama are headed in the right direction while 49% said they were on the wrong track. Meanwhile, 58% said their own local schools are headed in the right direction and just 33% said they were off on the wrong track.
Asked about the quality of education inside Alabama schools, just 14% said it was getting better, while 34% said it was getting worse and 47% said it was staying about the same.
The survey also showed that voters believe schools are focusing too much on social issues compared to basic instruction like reading and math. 61% said Alabama public schools are focusing too much on issues related to race, sexuality and gender identity, while just 4% said they were spending too little time on those issues and 22% said it was the right about.
The poll surveyed 500 GOP Primary voters via landlines and cell phones January 14-16 and has a margin of error of +/-4.38%. In Alabama, political scientists often focus on Republican voters rather than the general electorate when testing issues because the GOP primary is where most competitive contests occur in recent election cycles.