EdChoice releases 2016 “Schooling in America” national polling results

INDIANAPOLIS — EdChoice, formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, has released the results from its 2016 “Schooling in America” survey, the fifth year it has conducted a national poll on the state of K-12 education and opinions about school choice policies.

In addition to a statistically representative national sample of Americans over age 18, EdChoice included an oversample of Millennials to find out how their views on educational choice align with other generations.

REVIEW THE NATIONAL SURVEY: http://edchoice.org/NationalSurvey2016
REVIEW THE MILLENNIAL SURVEY: http://edchoice.org/MillennialSurvey

EdChoice also added a series of brand-new questions to this year’s survey to determine the reasons parents have switched their children’s schools and the lengths to which they’ve gone for their children’s education.

“We wanted to look not just at the national trend lines on school choice over the past five years, but also at how Millennials think about these issues and what types of activities families are undertaking to access K-12 schooling options,” said EdChoice President and CEO Robert Enlow. “From moving residences to taking another job to transporting their own kids, we found out that parents will go to great lengths to get their kids the education they need.”

Enlow noted that, as in past years, the majority of Americans believe K-12 education is on the wrong track, and the types of schooling parents want doesn’t match up with what they’re actually accessing.

“Today, 83 percent of students attend public district schools, but only 28 percent of parents told us that’s their preference,” Enlow said. “These data once again make the case for more educational choices across the board — and more flexibility to customize those choices for each student.”

EdChoice Vice President of Research Paul DiPerna, one of the survey authors, said the Millennial generation’s outlook on educational choice is particularly important because their children, if they have them, are beginning to enter K-12 schooling.

“Millennials clearly support various types of educational choice policies, such as education savings accounts, school vouchers, charter schools, and tax-credit scholarships. The margins of support are positive and large, and not only for Millennials. That applies to Gen Xers and—to a relatively lesser extent—Baby Boomers,” DiPerna said. “Whether or not these snapshot results are static and mostly reflect one’s life stage, or are dynamic and persist over time, remains to be seen and is worthy of continued survey research.”

DiPerna joined a panel of school choice and polling experts last week to discuss the new findings. Watch the video of that event: http://s.chool.ch/2016SchoolingInAmericaPanel


  • The majority of Americans (62 percent) think K–12 education is on the “wrong track.” Only 24 percent said they think education is headed in the “right direction.”
  • Most American school parents are not accessing the educational options they say they prefer for their children. When asked their preferred school type, 41 percent of school parents prefer a private school; 28 percent, a public district school; 17 percent, a charter school; 11 percent, home school. In reality, 83 percent of students currently attend public district schools and only 17 percent attend other types of schools.
  • Americans are nearly twice as likely to be supportive of education savings accounts than oppose them (49 percent favor vs. 27 percent oppose). ESAs are the newest, most flexible form of school choice; EdChoice estimates that nearly one in four Americans are still unaware of them.
  • American parents often take inconvenient, often life-altering, steps to secure the best education for their children’s needs. For example, nearly two-fifths of American parents have changed their children’s school over the summer or during the school year, and the majority (85 percent) made the choice to change schools for reasons other than their children transitioning from elementary to middle or middle to high school.


  • Millennials are more likely than other generations to support ESAs (57 percent to 21 percent). Millennials’ top reported reasons for favoring ESAs are “more freedom and flexibility for parents” and “access to schools providing more individual attention.”
  • Many Millennial parents have made great sacrifices to support their children’s schooling. They have changed jobs (18 percent vs. national average 14 percent), moved closer to school (26 percent vs. national average 17 percent) and taken other jobs for additional income (32 percent vs. national average 21 percent) specifically to support their children’s K–12 education. Millennials are also more likely than the national average to rely on family or friends to look after their children after school (58 percent vs. 49 percent) or to transport their children (55 percent vs. 47 percent). Notably, Millennials are twice as likely to pay for their children’s transportation to school than the national average (30 percent vs. 15 percent).
  • Most Millennials (87 percent) estimate incorrectly or don’t know how much we spend on K–12 education, and without any additional information they are slightly more likely than the national average to say we don’t spend enough (55 percent vs. 52 percent, respectively). However, when Millennials are told how much we spend per pupil on average ($10,763 in SY 2012–13), the percentage of Millennials who say we don’t spend enough on K–12 education drops significantly (by 18 percentage points) — more so than any other generation.



EdChoice is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing full and unencumbered educational choice as the best pathway to successful lives and a stronger society. EdChoice believes that families, not bureaucrats, are best equipped to make K-12 schooling decisions for their children. The organization works at the state level to educate diverse audiences, train advocates and engage policymakers on the benefits of high-quality school choice programs. EdChoice is the intellectual legacy of Milton and Rose D. Friedman, who founded the organization in 1996 as the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.