Three-quarters of New Mexicans support the expansion of charter schools and believe charters help make education better in the state, results of a statewide poll show.
The poll, commissioned by a consortium of education groups and conducted in August, also found that 82 percent of respondents favor expanded public school choice in their communities.
Support for charter expansion crosses racial, ethnic, socio-economic, and geographic lines, the poll shows. Results are equally strong among high school graduates and people with advanced degrees.
The overwhelmingly pro-charter poll results are “a testament to the folks who have done the work to open a charter school in their community,” said Matt Pahl, executive director of Public Charter Schools of New Mexico. “People are increasingly seeing charters as a good path for their kids, and good for kids in their community in general.”
Reeve Mora is one such parent. After living through repeated principal and teacher turnover at the Albuquerque Public Schools elementary school her two oldest children attended, and feeling that the latest principal did not prioritize safety, she moved her children to Corrales International, a K-12 charter school not far from her home.
There, she said, she feels heard and respected. More important, she said, the school welcomes parents asking questions and being involved. “Parents need to know that it’s OK to question how schools are doing things, their philosophy and values, and what their end goal is.”
Mora said she wasn’t surprised to learn that the poll showed parents want more public school choice. Regardless of whether students are homeschooled, attend a charter or a district-run school, parents want to know their children are safe, and that the learning environment suits them. “And if not, you should have the option to choose a school that has closer to (what) you’re looking for.”
Digging more deeply into the data reveals some interesting nuggets. Despite teachers union opposition to charter school expansion, 69 percent of union members in New Mexico support charter school growth and believe charters help improve public education.
And even three-quarters of people who believe public education in the state is headed in the right direction support the expansion of charter school options, and see charters as a positive influence on public education in New Mexico.
People were even more overwhelmingly positive on the more general question of more public school choices in their communities. More than 80 of white respondents, Hispanic respondents, and those who identified as ‘other’ want more public school choice.
Pahl said the results show that an increasing focus on not just school choice but high quality options is paying off.
He also pointed out that even in regions of the state like the southeast, where few charter schools exist, people are overwhelmingly supportive of charter expansion. “The reputation of charter schools is preceding them,” Pahl said. It’s up to us to ensure that we steward that appropriately and provide more public school options to more New Mexicans, but do it in a way where quality is upheld.”
Pollsters conducted phone interviews of 601 New Mexicans in August, and the poll has a margin of error of 4 percent.
It was commissioned by NewMexicoKidsCAN, Public Charter Schools of New Mexico, Excellent Schools New Mexico, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, and Teach Plus New Mexico. It touched on a range of issues, including perceptions of the quality of education in New Mexico and perceptions of and support for charter schools.