Majority of Rhode Island Democrats support school vouchers

Oct 29, 2013, 08:00 ET from The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

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.

"Our responsibility as a community should be to ensure that all parents find the best possible education for their children," said Justin Katz, the research director for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. "Evidence across the country shows that students in all types of schools benefit when families can make their own educational decisions."

Vouchers are accessible in 13 states and Washington, D.C., with the ability to participate typically based on family income or a child's special needs. In those states, some 104,000 students are receiving vouchers and enrollment is growing every year. The largest such program is in Indiana where more than 20,000 families applied for vouchers this school year.

The Friedman Foundation/BRI poll comprises 602 telephone interviews conducted in English from June 24 to July 8, 2013, by means of both landline and cell phone. Statistical results have been weighted to correct for known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the statewide sample is ± 4.0 percentage points. The survey's questionnaire, results, and methodology are available at

SOURCE The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice