Despite the recent rash of school closures and legislation aimed at destabilizing the public school system, a new poll reveals that the majority of American parents support public education and oppose reform mandates that favor the proliferation of corporate-backed charter schools.
Of the 1,000 nationwide parents surveyed by Hart Research Associates, sixty-one percent of respondents said they are opposed to the closure of low-performing schools and more than three out of four said they are against cutting resources for the classroom while increasing spending on charter schools, the Washington Post reported ahead of the poll's release.
School boards across the country—under mounting pressure from the Obama administration's Department of Education—have been shuttering neighborhood institutions in favor of corporate-run charter schools.
In a move dubbed a 'scorched-earth policy' by Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, the Chicago Board of Education voted in May to close 50 public schools to be replaced with 13 new charter schools and a "handful of alternative programs."
Earlier this spring saw the closure of 23 Philadelphia schools, a move many interpreted as a step towards the "elimination of public education."
Such closures have disproportionately targeted schools in low-income neighborhoods specifically affecting minority students. "It’s about further privatizing the public schools, destroying the union, and destabilizing neighborhoods," wrote Black Agenda Report's Glen Ford following the Chicago School Board announcement.
Other details of the poll—announced during a presentation by American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten on Monday—revealed 56 percent of parents oppose giving tax dollars to families to pay for non-public school tuition.
Despite this opposition, the House of Representatives Friday accepted an amendment to the Student Success Act which allows federal funds to follow children from public to charter schools, diverting resources from districts-in-need to privatized education programs.
According to reporting by the Associated Press, the GOP bill "encourages" the expansion of charter schools and "eliminate[s] more than 70 existing elementary and secondary education programs," replacing them with "block grant money" that states and school districts can distribute to private entities without any federal oversight.
The Washington Post's reporting continues:
On the issue of standardized tests, a majority of parents surveyed said that too much learning in the classroom has been sacrificed in order to accommodate state tests during the school year. A majority of parents reported that their children have been anxious about those tests. Pockets of resistance to standardized testing have been popping up across the country, with students in Seattle, Pittsburgh and elsewhere opting out of tests this spring in protest.
Among respondents, 38 percent identified as Democrats, 33 percent considered themselves independents and 29 percent were Republicans.