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Moms Weigh in on Vouchers, and Public Schools

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A nationwide survey released by a pro-voucher group finds strong support for private school choice among mothers, though they also give relatively high grades to their local public schools.

The "Moms and Schools Survey," sponsored by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, shows that 71 percent of mothers polled said they agreed or strongly agreed with the following statement: "Some people believe that school vouchers or scholarships should be available to all families, regardless of incomes and special needs." Just 24 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed. The percentage was similar among non-mothers, with 69 percent agreeing, and 26 percent disagreeing.

At the same time, however, a strong percentage of mothers polled—62 percent—gave either A or B grades to their local public schools, about 10 percentage points higher than non-moms surveyed. That finding isn't necessarily unusual; in polls about educational quality, it's common for Americans to bemoan the overall quality of public education— while saying their own schools are doing just fine. Twenty-two percent of moms gave their local public schools a C grade, and 12 percent deemed them worthy of Ds or Fs.

By comparison, 51 percent of mothers polled said they would give A or B grades to the private or parochial schools in their areas, while just 9 percent gave those schools C, D, or F marks. (A fairly large percentage, 39 percent, said they either didn't know the answer, or indicated the question didn't apply to them.)

Why focus on the opinions of mothers (other than having a poll pegged to Mother's Day)? Because mothers "tend to be the primary decisionmakers within families regarding schooling and educational matters," the Friedman Foundation says. "Their views, as a group, tend to go under-reported."

Another survey question asked what type of school mothers would sent their children to, if they could choose the one that would give them "the best education for your child." The largest number, 45 percent, picked regular public schools as their first choice; followed by 37 percent favoring private schools; 8 percent choosing charter schools; 7 percent picking home schools; and 1 percent, virtual schools.

Critics of vouchers will no doubt question whether the results would have been different had the parents polled been presented with different questions in a different context. I'll let readers examine the survey and make their own judgments. The poll was conducted by Braun Research, Inc. It was based on a nationwide sample of 803 adults, and additional interviews were conducted to obtain a nationally representative sample of mothers of school-aged children. The margin of error was 3.5 percentage points for the national sample and 5 pecentage points for the sample of mothers. Inteviews were conducted by phone, and lasted an average of seven minutes.

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