Americans don’t agree on what they want from schools, and that’s fine

December 10, 2018

The more interesting takeaway from EdChoice’s annual Schooling in America Survey is that there is not one form of education that the majority of respondents supported. Americans disagreeing on what schools should teach and how they should teach it is older than our nation itself. This viewpoint diversity should encourage us to push decision-making down to local levels.

What do we want out of our schools? It turns out that opinions differ. That is the takeaway from EdChoice’s annual Schooling in America Survey.

The survey asked respondents where they would send their children if they had a totally free choice. 36% said traditional public school, 13% said charter, 40% said private and 10% said homeschool (two percent didn’t know). Now, the headline of this graph is usually the comparison between stated preferences and the actual enrollment of students across the country (82% of children attend traditional public schools, 5% attend charter schools, 10% attend private schools, and only 3% are homeschooled), but I think that perhaps the more interesting takeaway is that there is not one form of education that the majority of respondents supported. Some folks like their local public school and want to send their kids there. Some would prefer charter schools, others private schools and still others prefer homeschooling.

When the survey drilled down and asked respondents why they chose that school type, only one answer elicited more than 20% support (those with a homeschool preference looking for a safer environment). Among those with a preference for public schools, socialization was the top choice, but only 15% of respondents selected it. Those who picked private schools had a top choice of “Better Education,” but only 18% chose that. Those who picked charter schools want individual attention, well, 15% of them do.