Nevada’s Opinion on K-12 Education and School Choice

Executive Summary

Executive Summary

This scientifically representative poll of 1,000 likely Nevada voters measures public opinion on K-12
education issues. In particular, the poll emphasizes questions about school choice in the form of school
vouchers, special education scholarships, tax-credit scholarships and charter schools.

Recent local events suggest a polling project should be timely. On November 30, 2007, the Nevada Board of Education voted 8-0 to place a moratorium on new charter schools. Prior to the Board meeting, which was held late on a Friday afternoon, there was little consideration for the views of Nevada families. The Board acted without the benefit of knowing where the voting public stood on charter schools.

So where does Nevada stand on school choice and other K-12 issues? At least one general finding comes through clearly in this poll: Nevadans would like a K-12 school choice system that offers opportunity and access to a range of schooling options.

Conducted December 14-16, 2007, by Strategic Vision, LLC, the poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Key findings include:

  • A majority of Nevadans are not satisfied with the current system of regular public schools – 53 percent rate Nevada's public school system as "poor" or "fair." Among 36 to 55 year-olds, who tend to be most emotionally and financially invested in K-12 schooling, this number jumps to nearly 60 percent.
  • Only one out of ten Nevadans say a regular public school is the top choice for their child's school. Citizens want more school options. This finding is consistent across major demographic categories including age, race/ethnicity, gender, and geographic region – never rising above 16 percent for any one subgroup.
  • Nevada voters overwhelmingly prefer private schools and charter schools. When asked "what type of school would you select in order to obtain the best education for your child?", Nevadans preferred private schools (48 percent) over other types of schools. Charter schools (23 percent) were the second most desired option.
  • Nevadans appear content with levels of public school funding and the average public school teacher salary. About three out of five likely Nevada voters (61 percent) say the current level of public school funding is "about right" or "too high." More than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) believe the average Nevada public school teacher salary is "about right" or "too high."
  • Charter schools are a popular idea for educational reform – 55 percent of Nevadans are favorable to charter schools. This feeling is strongest among 36 to 55 year-olds (64 percent), African-Americans (64 percent), Asians (58 percent) and those who live in the Las Vegas area (57 percent).
  • A majority of Nevadans (53 percent) favor allowing parents the option of using public funds to send their child to a private school. Favorability elevates to significantly higher levels for 36 to 45 year-olds (62 percent) and 46 to 55 year-olds (63 percent). By contrast, younger Nevadans – 18 to 25 year-olds and 26 to 35 year-olds – are less favorable to a choice-driven K-12 finance system (43 percent and 47 percent respectively). African-Americans (56 percent) and those living in the northwest part of the state (58 percent) report higher than average rates of favorability.
  • More than half of Nevadans support school vouchers – 54 percent of likely voters say they are personally favorable toward a school voucher approach for helping parents pay for the school where they choose to send their child.
  • Nevada voters support special education scholarships. When asked "if a proposal were made in Nevada to create a special needs scholarship system, would you favor or oppose such an idea," 56 percent said they favored this policy. Support for special education scholarships climbs to nearly 60 percent among 36 to 55 year-olds.
  • Nevadans also favor a tax-credit scholarship system. When asked "if a proposal were made in Nevada to create a tax-credit scholarship system," 53 percent said they favored this policy. Women (57 percent) and 56 to 65 year-olds (59 percent) indicated highest favorability rates among demographic subgroups.
  • Over half of Nevadans cite "academic quality" or "school curriculum" as the main reason they would choose a particular type of school as the best type for their child. This finding is consistent across all major demographic categories. Academic quality is the most frequent reason cited by all demographic subgroups spanning age, race/ethnic categories, gender, and geographic region.
  • Nevada voters are more likely to vote for a state representative, state senator or governor who supports school vouchers. Voters say they would be more likely to vote for a governor or legislator who supports school vouchers, with 35 percent saying "more likely" versus 25 percent saying "less likely."
  • Nevada school choice advocates have the opportunity to reach out to families and communities and inform them about school choice, including school voucher systems and charter schools. As in other states, knowledge about school choice is at a low baseline in Nevada. One-third of Nevada likely voters had never heard about "the use of school vouchers in K-12 education." Sixty percent of respondents are either "not very familiar" or "not familiar at all" with charter schools. These reforms still remain relatively unfamiliar ideas. Building local level relationships and networks, communications, and messaging are likely to be vital activities for Nevada school choice advocates in the future.

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