Majority of Rhode Island Democrats support school vouchers

Majority of Rhode Island Democrats support school vouchers

PROVIDENCE, R.I., Oct. 29, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ Support for school choice programs, including vouchers, crosses political party lines, a new survey of registered Rhode Island voters found. The sometimes controversial policy was introduced in the legislature by Rep. Elaine Coderre (D-Pawtucket) in 2013, but did not have enough backing to advance. Lawmakers are expected to consider the measure again in 2014.

The "Rhode Island K-12 and School Choice Survey," released by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, in cooperation with the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, found 56 percent of respondents favor vouchers, which allow parents to use a portion of their children's state public education funding for private school tuition. Among Democrats, 54 percent support vouchers. The survey was conducted by Braun Research, Inc., which has been used by such research firms as Gallup Organization and the Pew Research Center.

Private schools also were viewed favorably by voters, 66 percent of whom gave A or B letter grades to the private schools near their home. If given the financial ability, 53 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans said they would choose to send their children to a private school to obtain the best education possible.

"School choice has proved to be a bipartisan issue in other states, and Rhode Island voters clearly are part of that national trend," said Michael Chartier, the Rhode Island state director for the Friedman Foundation. "This represents a tremendous opportunity for education stakeholders to come together to make real progress on behalf of every Rhode Island family."

The survey also revealed who voters believe should have access to school vouchers. The majority (62 percent) of Rhode Islanders agree vouchers should be available "universally" to all families, and a slightly larger majority (63 percent) disagree that vouchers should be accessed only by families based on their financial need.