AUGUSTA — As Gov. Paul R. LePage pushes for more customized learning solutions, a new survey shows more than half of Maine voters favor policies that increase student access to private schools. Released by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and Maine Heritage Policy Center, the poll reveals strong support for town tuitioning and mixed reviews on the quality of K-12 education.
The “Maine K-12 & School Choice Survey” found 55 percent of voters support town tuitioning, which allows families to use their public education funds for private school tuition; 38 percent oppose town tuitioning. Maine already has the country’s second oldest town tuitioning program, started in 1873, which allows children without district public schools to receive tuition support to attend neighboring public or private schools.
The statewide survey, conducted by Braun Research, Inc., includes 604 landline and cell phone interviews completed Jan. 30 to Feb. 6, 2013, with a margin of sampling error of ± 4.0 percentage points.
“Given Maine’s track record with school choice, voters clearly see it works and thus want more of it,” Robert Enlow, the Friedman Foundation’s president and CEO, said. “Every child deserves a high-quality school. We should empower their parents to choose that education regardless of whether it is in a public, private, charter, online, or home school.”
As for the quality of K-12 education in the state, 50 percent of Maine voters said it is on the “wrong track” whereas 31 percent see it moving in the “right direction.” Still, exactly half of those voters gave positive marks to the state’s public school system, with 45 percent labeling it “fair” or “poor.”
“This survey’s findings aren’t meant to assign blame but rather to show that voters support giving families greater educational options,” said J. Scott Moody, CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center. “Maine already has proven school choice strengthens public education and serves families in need. It’s time we expand those opportunities to include more children.”
The survey also found that if voters could choose their children’s schools, 42 percent would select private schools, 36 percent would opt for public schools, 9 percent would prefer charter schools, and 10 percent would prefer home schooling. Currently, just 8 percent of Maine’s K-12 student population is in private schools whereas 92 percent are in public schools.
The survey’s questionnaire, complete results, and methodology are available at www.edchoice.org/MEpoll.