More than two out of three Louisiana residents favor more charter schools, but vouchers have nearly as many opponents as backers, according to an LSU survey released Wednesday.
In addition, 55 percent of those surveyed favor letter grades for public school districts, but support for Common Core has dropped in the past year, results of The 2016 Louisiana Survey show.
The annual poll was done by LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at the Manship School of Mass Communication.
About 1,000 adults were quizzed on landlines and cellphones from Feb. 1-26. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The results touch on topics expected to spark controversy during the legislative session, including key parts of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ education agenda.
Edwards wants to make it harder to launch charter schools and wants to put new limits on vouchers, which are state aid for students from low-income families to move from troubled public schools to private schools.
However, the survey shows that 68 percent of residents favor more charter schools while 29 percent are opposed.
Charter schools are public schools run by nongovernmental boards.
They are supposed to offer innovative teaching methods, and about 69,000 students attend Louisiana’s 144 charter schools.
Under current rules, a charter school applicant whose bid is rejected by a local school board can take the proposal to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Edwards wants to end those appeals in school districts rated A or B, which is nearly 60 percent of the districts in Louisiana.
That list includes the St. Tammany, Ascension, Livingston, Jefferson, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and Zachary school systems.
The governor said in those cases, whether a charter school should be authorized is a matter for local officials to decide, not BESE.
Opponents of the plan say low-performing schools are often common even in top-rated districts.
Michael Henderson, one of the authors of the report, said charter schools may enjoy more public support because they are seen as a tangible sign of education choice while a voucher “is about tax dollars going to private schools.”
“This is not strictly a Louisiana phenomenon,” he said.
In another area, the survey showed 48 percent of residents favor vouchers while 46 percent are opposed.
About 7,100 students are using vouchers this school year, mostly in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Current rules allow access to the aid for students attending public schools rated C, D or F.
Edwards wants to trim that eligibility to D and F schools only, in part because he says vouchers were set as an alternative to failing, not average, public schools.
Opponents to Edwards’ position argue that the state’s school grading system is so inflated that even C-rated schools should be covered by voucher options.
The survey showed that 55 percent of residents support the state issuing letter grades to public school districts based largely on student test results.
However, only 11 percent of those quizzed could correctly identify the grade issued to their school district.
The poll also showed increasing opposition to the Common Core academic standards.
The standards represent new academic benchmarks in reading, writing and math.
Support dropped from 39 percent last year to 34 percent this time.
Opposition rose from 51 percent to 59 percent.
The survey also showed how Common Core has become a toxic term.
Without using those words, 57 percent of residents support the standards while 37 percent were opposed.
BESE recently approved revisions to Common Core, which would affect about 20 percent of the guidelines.
The proposed changes still face review by the House and Senate education committees and Edwards.
Students take this year’s version of the Common Core exams next month. The tests are called LEAP 2016.
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