New poll shows Californians hold mixed views on charters

New poll shows Californians hold mixed views on charters

(Calif.) As lawmakers consider controversial new limits on the growth of charter schools throughout the state, a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows charters generate a similar division among adults statewide.

Researchers found that, overall, 49 percent of adults favor charters while 46 percent are opposed. There is a greater disparity among different racial and ethnic groups, however–of those who participated in the survey, 51 percent of Latinos said they support charter schools in general, followed and 50 percent of whites, and 43 percent of Asian Americans. Only 36 percent of African Americans reported the same.

Meanwhile, 75 percent of adults agreed that it is very important or somewhat important for parents in low-income areas to have the option of sending their children to charter schools. At the same time, 64 percent said they were at least somewhat concerned about charters diverting state funding away from traditional local public schools.

The report noted what while majorities of adults across all regions expressed such views, those in Los Angeles were the most likely to express concern, at 71 percent.

“Charter public schools get mixed reviews,” Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO, said in a statement. “Many Californians say it is important to have the option of a charter school, but there are concerns about the fiscal impacts on traditional public schools.”

Last fall, charter leaders lost yet another hard-fought election for state schools chief when former Assemblyman Tony Thurmond won out over charter favorite, Marshall Tuck. In another blow, Gov. Gavin Newsom beat out former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, also a strong charter supporter.

Just last month, Newsom signed a bill requiring charter schools to meet the same open meetings and public records mandates that virtually all other state and local agencies follow, including public school districts. The latest PPIC poll found that 90 percent of adults in California agreed that it is very or somewhat important for charter schools to operate with the same transparency and accountability as traditional public schools.

Now, three bills all co-authored by the State Assembly’s chairs of the budget subcommittee on education finance and education committee seek to slow the growth of charter schools in California. One bill would place a cap on the number of charter schools that can be operated in the state; a second would restrict the options charter proponents have to getting a new school authorized and to appeal denials; and a third would eliminate the ability for a charter school to locate outside the boundaries of the district authorizer, among other things.

In addition to questioning California residents’ views on charters, the online PPIC poll sought out their views of other education issues.

For instance, 75 percent of adults said the governor should place a very high or high priority on public K-12 education. Most–78 percent–also agreed that preschool is at least somewhat important to academic success, and 63 percent of adults said the state should fund voluntary preschool for all four-year-olds. Among public school parents, that number increased to 81 percent.

“Early childhood education is important to most Californians, and solid majorities support the governor’s spending plans to expand preschool and full-day kindergarten,” Baldassare said.

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