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Poll Shows Floridians Want More School Options, Strong Charter School Law

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
July 11, 2012

The Center for Education Reform (CER) released a new poll today showing Florida voters strongly support having more school options and the creation of new charter schools in the state. The poll also revealed strong support for multiple authorizers and equitable funding for charter schools, which are key components in ensuring the growth of high-quality charter schools.

The poll, commissioned by CER and conducted by Majority Opinion Research, revealed that 60 percent of surveyed Floridians support the creation of new charter schools and the opportunity to choose among a wide variety of schools.

“These results demonstrate a demand for more effective ways to educate the state’s children,” said CER President Jeanne Allen. “People want parents to have the power to choose a school for their child based on their needs not their zip code. And they want those parents to have a plethora of charter schools to choose from.”

In addition, the poll found that 54 percent of Floridians surveyed understand and support having more than one entity in the state authorized to approve and oversee public charter schools. Such entities – commonly called “multiple” or “independent authorizers” – are independent but publicly accountable entities like mayors or universities and are currently in place in 17 states. Research shows that states with multiple authorizers have more and higher-quality charter schools. Florida currently does not allow multiple authorizers after a 2006 law creating an independent authorizer was challenged. However, this poll reveals that Floridians – then and now – understand the importance of multiple authorizers and that local districts should not have the exclusive franchise over public education.

“Not allowing multiple authorizers is as absurd as the notion of requiring Burger King to seek approval from McDonald’s before opening another restaurant,” said Allen. “Traditionally, local school boards are often unable or unwilling to have fair and impartial processes to vet charter schools. We need to give parents as many options as possible, and having multiple charter authorizers helps achieve that.”

The poll also found that 61 percent of those surveyed agree that charter schools should be funded at least the same as all other public schools. Florida has one of the largest funding disparities between charter and traditional schools in the nation, according to a 2010 Ball State University study and a 2012 Florida TaxWatch study.

“Charter schools ARE public schools and all public school students, regardless of whether they attend a traditional public school or choose a charter school, deserve to be funded equally,” said Allen. “If educational attainment is the true purpose, then we need to strengthen and expand the opportunities Florida families have to seek out and choose the school that meets their children’s specific needs.”

The Center for Education Reform partnered with Majority Opinion Research – a leading U.S. research organization based in Atlanta, GA – to conduct a random statewide telephone survey of 517 registered voters between June 18 and June 19, 2012. The margin of error for the Florida survey is +/- 4.2 percent. To see more information about the poll click here.