Mackinac Center for Public Policy www.mackinac.org
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Contact: Joseph G. Lehman, Executive Vice President, at 989-631-0900

Historic Supreme Court Voucher Decision Imminent

EPIC/MRA Poll: 67% Want School Choice, Not Necessarily Vouchers

MIDLAND-With just hours to go before the U.S. Supreme Court renders its anxiously awaited decision on the Cleveland school voucher program, support for school choice in Michigan remains strong, with a decided preference for tax credits as the way to achieve it.

The most closely watched case of the Supreme Court's current session is Zelman
v. Simmons-Harris, a challenge to the constitutionality of a voucher program operating in Cleveland, Ohio since September 1996. It provides poor students with vouchers to attend private and religious schools. Opponents claim the program constitutes government sponsorship of religion; school choice advocates argue to the contrary, that the program is not biased toward religion because it leaves the choice of schools entirely up to individual parents.

Michigan voters decisively turned down a voucher plan when it appeared on the statewide ballot in 2000. Since 1997, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has recommended education tax credits as a better policy and a more politically viable choice for Michigan. The Mackinac Center plan would allow a limited tax credit for public or private school tuition expenses, and also for individuals and companies that contribute to public or private schools or to scholarship funds.

Today, Mackinac Center President Lawrence W. Reed expressed hope that the Court "will issue a far-reaching ruling that upholds the Cleveland program and provides a bright green light for school choice everywhere." The Mackinac Center has been a leader on education reform issues since its inception in 1988, and it commissioned the survey conducted this week by the Lansing-based polling firm EPIC/MRA, which showed strong support for choice across the state.

According to the EPIC/MRA poll, 60 percent of Michigan voters indicate a Supreme Court verdict favoring vouchers would have no impact on their personal view of vouchers, while 22 percent said it would make them more likely to support a similar program in Michigan.

More significantly, according to the Mackinac Center, is citizens' desire for expanding school choice in Michigan. While just 43 percent of respondents said they would support a voucher program today, support for school choice jumped to 67 percent when respondents were asked if they would support an education tax credit similar to the one crafted by the Mackinac Center.

The poll surveyed 600 active Michigan voters and has an error margin of four points.

"These poll results are very encouraging to school choice proponents in Michigan," said Reed. "At some point in the near future, Michigan citizens will be faced with a choice initiative and these latest figures reinforce earlier polls that suggest tax credits are the way to go. That will be true if the Court upholds the Cleveland program, but if the Court rejects vouchers, tax credits will then be more than just the best vehicle for choice; they will be the only alternative."

More poll results are as follows:

* Favor or oppose Cleveland voucher program? 28% StF, 16% SoF, 13% SoO, 36% StO, 7% U/D.
* Favor or oppose a Michigan voucher program? 25% StF, 18% SoF, 14% SoO, 36% StO, 7% U/D.
* Favor or oppose a $2,000 Michigan education tax credit for parents of children attending non-public schools? 21% StF, 27% SoF, 12% SoO, 29% StO, 11% U/D.
* Favor or oppose a Michigan education tax credit for individuals or companies to provide scholarships for children who attend non-public schools? 24% StF, 32% SoF, 12% SoO, 22% StO, 10% U/D.
* Favor or oppose a Michigan education tax credit for individuals or companies to provide scholarships for children who attend either public or nonpublic schools? 33% StF, 34% SoF, 7% SoO, 15% StO, 11% U/D.

Key: StF = strongly favor, SoF = somewhat favor, SoO = somewhat oppose, StO = strongly oppose, U/D = undecided/don't know.
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