Proponents of school choice include parents, teachers, private schools, taxpayers, and politicians. Each is discussed in further detail below.
-- Former Democratic
Parents make up the majority of school choice supporters. They tend to be dissatisfied with the status quo in government education or dislike being forced to financially support schools that do not enroll their children. Possibly the greatest numbers of pro-school choice parents can be found in large inner cities, where government schools most often fail. Both Cleveland and Milwaukee have implemented school choice programs as a result of overwhelming public support for options to failing government schools. In Detroit, a coalition of concerned inner-city parents and pastors have become exceptionally vociferous in their calls for educational choice.113
In 1998, the Association of American Educators surveyed its members (90 percent of whom are government school teachers) and discovered that 62 percent were in favor of school choice (including vouchers) while only 32 percent opposed it. One teacher from Jackson, Mississippi, commented, "All of us teachers are against vouchers except when we think of our own children. We need to do what's best for all children." Another teacher from Los Angeles remarked, "All parents should have the choice to send their children to a private school, not just rich parents. Plus, it would force public schools to become more accountable." Although the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers labor unions oppose school choice, they have adopted a stance that is in opposition to many of their own members. 114
A 1983 Detroit Free Press survey of 872 teacher in 35 districts across the state found that "Michigan's public-school teachers are twice as likely as the general public to send their children to private schools."115 Where Connoisseurs Send Their Children to School: An Analysis of 1990 Census Data to Determine Where School Teachers Send Their Children to School, discovered that significant numbers of teachers choose private schools for their children. Whereas only 27 percent of all families in Grand Rapids choose private schools for their children, 41 percent of government school teachers in the city make that choice for their children. In Detroit, the results are similar: nearly 33 percent of government school teachers choose private schools, but only 17 percent of all families do so. Nationally, in all states but two, all teachers send their children to private schools at a rate greater than does the population at large. Michigan is one of only 14 states where government school teachers choose private schools for their children at a greater rate than the general population.116
This group also appears under "opponents of school choice."
Just as government school officials have strong financial incentives to leave barriers in place that make it difficult for parents to choose private schools, private school leaders have strong financial reasons to support measures that remove those barriers. Many private school supporters argue that their government school competitors have an unfair advantage. Government is the only institution legally permitted to use taxation to fund its activities, and government schools are the only schools to benefit from such a financial monopoly. In contrast, private schools must continually convince the parents of their students that the tuition charge is a good value or the schools risk losing financial support. Private schools cannot demand that families who do not use their services pay for them anyway.
Tax funding of government schools and barriers to school choice are major reasons that approximately 88 percent of Michigan students attend government schools. Private school leaders believe their enrollment and funding would significantly increase if their students' families had to pay for only the school system they used.
Some private school groups, especially Catholic school organizations, are much more active than others in their support of school choice.
Other proponents of school choice include taxpayers who have observed with dissatisfaction the increasing public expenditures on government education and the simultaneous decrease in student achievement. Others oppose the government school system on principle, objecting to being taxed to pay for a system of schools they do not use.
Many politicians have embraced school choice as the best way to improve the quality of education for their constituents. Former Congressman Floyd Flake of New Yorka six-term Democrat and past senior member of the Congressional Black Caucusrejects his party's official stance against school choice. He says
What needs to be realized is that parents with children in failing public schools are not interested in which political party helps their children receive a quality education, they just want help. School choice is an important initiative that offers poor families real educational alternatives and informs the public education system that it must change its ways, or risk losing another generation of inner city youth to violence, drugs, jail, and ultimately death. If the nay-sayers from either party continue their partisan stances, it is not the opposition party that they are harming, instead they are harming our nation's futureour children.117
School choice has received strong bipartisan support from Michigan legislators and members of Congress. In a 1998 survey, four Republican U. S. Representatives and Democratic Congressman James Barcia pledged to support a K-12 tuition tax credit. At the state capitol, over half of newly-elected senators in 1998 pledged to support a K-12 tuition tax credit amendment to the Michigan Constitution. In the House, 44 newly-elected members pledged their support with only 22 members responding in opposition. Ten out of eleven Republicans elected to Senate leadership posts, as well as Lt. Governor Dick Posthumus, supported giving parents greater educational options for their children.118
This group also appears under "opponents of school choice."