Poll: Alaska Voters Support School Choice

The legislature has heard from many connected to the public education system on SJR9, constitutional amendment. It has not heard from the voices of other Alaskans. Their voices were heard in this Poll-54% support constitutional amendment. The voice of Alaska.

Voters in Alaska decidedly favor school vouchers and other educational choice policies that would provide parents a range of options when it comes to educating their children, according to a poll released by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

A school voucher system allows parents the option of sending their child to the school of their choice, whether it’s a government or a non-government school, including both religious and non-religious schools.

The poll—“Alaska K-12 & School Choice Survey”—also reveals that Alaska voters underestimate how much is spent for public education. Very few respondents recognize that an average of more than $15,000 is being spent per student.

“This poll shows a large majority in Alaska supports educational choice,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. “Whether they are displeased with the current state of education, or satisfied with the status quo, Alaskans say they deserve options to enable them the choose the best education for their children.”

The survey, commissioned by The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and conducted by Braun Research Incorporated (BRI), interviewed registered voters in Alaska. A total of 1,006 telephone interviews were conducted in English from September 10 – 18, 2011, by means of both landline and cell phone. Statistical results were weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the total sample of interviews is +3.1 percentage points.

Among the poll’s key findings:

  • Alaska voters voiced clear, strong support for school vouchers. More than twice as many voters say they favor a school voucher system (64 percent) than oppose the idea (29 percent). In the final polling report, all examined demographic groups expressed favorable views on school vouchers, with no group dipping below the level of 57 percent favorable.
  • Alaskans support a constitutional amendment that would allow school vouchers. 54 percent favor such an amendment, while only 37 percent oppose.
  • While Alaska voters believe K-12 education is heading in the “right direction”, they still have an appetite for choice. 46 percent think K-12 education is heading in the “right direction” compared to being on the “wrong track” (39 percent). Yet, as outlined above, there is a strong desire for choice in the state.
  • Most Alaska voters have no idea how much is spent in the public schools. Fewer than 1 out of 10 respondents (7 percent) could estimate the correct per-student spending range. The state spends more than $15,000 for each student in the public schools, but nearly a quarter of those interviewed thought the state spent less than $4,000 per student.
  • When informed of actual per-student spending amounts, Alaska voters are more likely to say public school funding is at a level that is “about right” or “too high” than those without this information. In a split-sample experiment, those supplied with official spending data were less likely to say state spending is “too low” by 14 percentage points.
  • Of all noted demographic groups, Alaska Natives and Asian Americans indicated they were most positive about school vouchers (69 percent and 73 percent favorable, respectively).  Alaska Natives are the most likely group to have a strongly-held positive opinion (40 percent “strongly favorable” vs. 19 percent “strongly oppose”).

According to former Anchorage Mayor Tom Fink, the survey results are reassuring. “We hear from many individual Alaskans who say they support educational options; this survey confirms the majority of Alaskans favor providing parents the opportunity to choose the school their child attends.”

To see a summary of survey results and a description of the methodology, visit http://www.EdChoice.org/AK-Survey.