Vouchers Don't Make The Grade

high school students classroom
Most Americans oppose voucher programs and think teachers aren't paid enough, a poll finds.

Support for a program that allows students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense dropped to 38 percent from 46 percent last year, according to the poll conducted by professional educational association Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup.

Poll respondents were divided equally on whether a voucher program would improve student achievement in their community overall, with 48 percent saying it would and 48 percent saying it wouldn't.

The split divided less evenly along political party lines: Most Republicans — 55 percent — said a voucher program would boost student achievement, and 41 percent of Democrats said it would.

Most Americans — 59 percent — thought a voucher program would not affect the achievement of public school students, the poll found. Just 26 percent thought public school students' achievement would improve — up from 17 percent in 1997.

Given a full-tuition voucher, 62 percent of respondents said they would send their child to a private or school or one connected to a religious institution. With a half-tuition voucher, that number dropped to 51 percent.

Most polled — 59 percent — said the teachers in their communities weren't paid enough. About a third thought teacher salaries were "just about right."

Public opinion about teacher salaries has fluctuated over the years. From 1969 through the mid-1980s, about a third of Americans thought teachers were paid too little. By 1990, that number reached 50 percent. It has increased since then.

Nearly two-thirds — or 65 percent — thought teachers should get paid more for teaching in schools that have been identified as needing improvement.

The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll results will be published in the September issue of the Phi Delta Kappan.