Trump Should Capitalize on Vouchers’ Newfound Popularity

Paul E. Peterson
Year of publication: 
May 26, 2017

President Donald Trump’s poll numbers have slipped well below levels enjoyed by prior presidents during their first one hundred days. But on one issue—school choice—the president is pushing the numbers in the direction he desires. It’s time for him to push his school choice agenda.

When Trump chose Betsy DeVos, a fervent school choice advocate, to serve as education secretary, teachers unions pulled out all the stops. Senate Democrats relentlessly attacked DeVos’s credentials, demonstrators stormed the Capitol and two Republican senators broke party ranks to vote against the nominee on the grounds they could not support vouchers. To get the nomination through the Senate, Vice-President Mike Pence had to cast the deciding vote. But all the hullabaloo about DeVos’s voucher advocacy has backfired. The more the public have heard about vouchers, the more they like the idea.

A year ago, the 2016 Education Next poll of a representative sample of adult Americans (which I oversee) found only 31% of the public support the use of “government funds to pay the tuition of low-income students” while 55% opposed, with the remainder taking a neutral position. Now, according to a poll just released by Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center, vouchers that use taxpayer funds for low-income students to attend private schools gathered support from 43% of the public, with only 31% opposed. The shift in opinion is no less than 12 percentage points