A just-released survey finds majority of Virginians want more school choices-even though most of them believe their traditional public schooling system is good. Survey responses indicate:

  • 40% of parents said they would choose a regular public school for their child, but about 90% of Virginia’s enrolled K-12 students attend regular public schools.

  • 39% of K-12 parents say they would like to send their child to a private school, but only 9% of Virginia’s K-12 students attend private schools.

  • 11% of Virginia parents prefer to homeschool their child, but less than 2% of Virginia children are homeschooled.

  • 8% of parents say they would like to send their child to a charter school; however, there are only three charter schools in operation in Virginia, serving approximately 190 students.

Findings like these are bad news for traditional opponents of parental choice in education, including teachers union leaders. “All of this stuff about, ‘We need vouchers so we can send our kids other places, we need to provide choices, we need charter schools,’ all of it is simply an attempt to get away from the responsibility of providing a public education,” claims Virginia Education Association president Kitty J. Boitnott. Not so, explains Chris Braunlich, Vice President of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy: “While Virginians do support our state’s public schools, it is also clear that they want more and different opportunities for the education of their children.” Braunlich added, “These survey results confirm first and foremost that our parents want more choices and options in our educational system. …One size does not fit all.” This conviction holds across the political spectrum. An average of more than six out of 10 Democrats, Independents, and Republicans surveyed support tax-credit scholarship programs, and an average of nearly six out of 10 support vouchers. “The implication of these results,” concluded Paul DiPerna, Research Director for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, “is that Virginia does not have a sufficient school choice system in place to match parents’ schooling preferences.” Today, 1.5 million students now attend one of 4,600 charter schools in 41 states, including the District of Columbia. Fully, 16 states, including the District of Columbia, have 24 tax-credit scholarship and voucher programs serving approximately 160,000 students. There is no good policy reason Virginia students shouldn’t benefit from such programs as well.