Many state legislators in Delaware have chosen to be joined at the hip with the Delaware public teachers union. This is in part because of the generous campaign contributions bestowed each year by the union to political candidates that see the world the way the union does. Changing sentiment among voters toward the public schools is raising questions about the political costs of such blind loyalty.
Even though it is well recognized that more affluent parents are fleeing Northern Delaware for the school systems in southeastern Pennsylvania, many of the findings in the recently released Friedman Foundation survey of K-12 education in Delaware are startling.
Six hundred randomly selected men and women of different ages, races, ethnicities, and income levels from all three counties were polled. The survey has a sampling error of +/-4%. It was conducted by both landline telephone and cell phone interviews, and was weighted by age, race, ethnicity, gender, and region.
At least 50% of Delawareans think that K-12 education has gotten on the "wrong track" compared to one-third of voters (35%) who say it is heading in the "right direction." Sussex and New Castle County residents are far more likely to believe education is on the "wrong track," Republicans and Independents more than Democrats, Hispanics and Whites more than Blacks. Interestingly, there is little difference between adults with school-age children and adults without school-age children (51% and 49% respectively see schools as on the "wrong track") and between men and women (50% each).
While 34% of respondents would give public schools a grade of "A" or "B", that rises to 50% for charter schools and 66% for private schools. Only about one out of every five respondents would prefer regulation public school for their children, compared to 88% that would choose private/charter schools or home schooling.
Unsurprisingly, 72% of all respondents favor charter schools while only 20% oppose and 70% favor school vouchers (a margin of support more than 10 times the surveys margin of error). A smaller proportions (59%) favor education savings accounts which provide parents who pull their children out of public or charter schools with a government authorized savings account to be used in the manner the parents deems best for the childs education, including private school tuition, private tutoring, or future college expenses.
Delaware is not an outlier with respect to the demand for more K-12 educational choice as the exact same findings have been found by similar Friedman Foundation surveys in over 20 other states.
Delaware politicians who remain joined to the hip with public teacher unions run the risk of being left behind by the voters. If teacher union management is intransigent, both with regard to the sentiment among voters and their own union members, many of whom send their children to private or charter schools, they run the risk of being irrelevant.
Voters want parents to have educational choice for their children--regardless of income or place of residents. It is clear to concerned parents that an effective education in this "human capital" driven modern economy is the cornerstone to their childrens future.
The tide is turning and Delawareans more and more expect their elected representatives to work to make a great education available to all children--regardless of income--rather than focusing on protecting the interests vested in Delawares underperforming schools.
Dr. John E. Stapleford, President
Caesar Rodney Institute
Click on the link below to view the full survey results