Poll: South Carolinians want more access, choice in public education

South Carolina education system

Voters in South Carolina want bold action to increase access and choice in public education, according to a new poll conducted on behalf of the South Carolina Policy Council.

The survey results indicate that voters are concerned about their public schools and believe in policies that expand school choice to address those concerns.

The results continue to show support for the Legislature’s proposed Education Savings Account (ESA) plan. When asked:

“Earlier this year, a proposal was made in South Carolina to establish Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which would pay for some lower-income K-12 students to attend private schools of their choice. The amount of the scholarship would be equal to or less than what the state is currently paying to educate that child. Do you support or oppose this proposal?”

47% of South Carolina registered voters said they support the measure, while 26% opposed it. 27% indicated they neither support nor oppose the plan, or were unsure.

A SCPC voter survey released in June showed similar results among voters for the ESA program. Support increased when voters were given more details. Respondents then were asked:

“There are many ideas on how to improve K-12 education. One idea is to allow families who leave their public school to receive a portion of the state funding allocated for their child’s education. These funds could instead be used for educational expenses such as homeschool costs, tutoring, small local learning groups, online programs, private schools, etc.

After learning this, do you support or oppose states allocating K-12 education funds to families who leave their public schools?”

54% said they support the concept, while 34% opposed it.

In the latest survey, more than three in five (62%) voters say a candidate’s position on ESAs would be important when thinking about how to vote for their state representative or senator.

“Given the difference in the numbers, it’s fair to say that this issue could mobilize voters,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the South Carolina Policy Council.

Voter concerns about the state of K-12 education in South Carolina are a driving factor behind ESA support.

When asked how they would rate the quality of public K-12 education in South Carolina, 60% of respondents gave fair or poor marks. 28% gave good or excellent ratings, while 11% said they were unsure.

72% of respondents said parents should have more input on what is taught in public schools, while 85% indicated families should have more options in public education.

“This survey confirms what we have seen across the country,” said Woodhouse. “During and after COVID-19, parents and voters became even more aware that when it comes to education, one size does not fit all. South Carolina voters want these proposals adopted because they believe it is better to have more options in public education, not less.“

Find the full voter survey results here. If you have questions about the poll or would like arrange an interview, please email dallas@scpolicycouncil.org.

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