As the largest demographic group in America right now, millennials drive much public policy. Spanning the ages of roughly 18-34, this generation is young, diverse, opinionated, and increasingly powerful. This is good news for those involved in efforts that millennials support, like school choice.
According to a new GenForward report conducted by University of Chicago researchers, most millennials support school choice efforts. The GenForward report echoes similar findings from a report last fall by EdChoice, showing widespread millennial support for school choice. This week’s GenForward report reveals that the majority of Latino, Hispanic, and white millennials surveyed support school choice measures, and African American millennials expressed the most support. According to the survey, 79% of African American millennials support vouchers for students from low-income families (support drops to 69 percent when extended to all income levels), and 65% support charter schools.
This represents a striking split between African American millennials and the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. At its annual national meeting in Baltimore this past July, the NAACP renewed its commitment to a “moratorium on charter schools.” In its July report on education, the NAACP states: “While high quality, accountable and accessible charters can contribute to educational opportunity, by themselves, even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education in the communities that serve our children.”
Many school choice supporters disagree with the NAACP’s stance, stating that the numbers speak for themselves. Marquette University professor, and former Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent, Howard Fuller tells U.S. News and World Report: “What's clear is thousands and thousands and thousands of black parents have already made it known what they think about charter schools by choosing to go to them, and they will continue to choose to go to them.”
Interestingly, in supporting school choice measures, millennials are not griping about their personal experience in public schools. According to the GenForward survey they were generally satisfied with their own education. Their concern, it seems, lies in the direction they want schooling to go.
The vast majority of millennials gave low grades to the nation’s public schools as a whole, with only 26% of African Americans, 31% of Asian Americas, 32% of Latinos, and 20% of whites rating public schools as an A or B in quality. African American millennials were more likely than others to give the nation’s schools a grade of D or F.
As a major political force, millennials’ viewpoints are critical for shaping public policy in the years to come. Their support of more school choice options for families is widespread and well documented. The overwhelming support of charter schools and vouchers by millennials of color is also a wake-up call to advocacy groups that actively dismiss education choice. The rising generation, big and diverse and vocal, is letting its views be known. It’s time to listen.
[Image Credit: HBO | The Wire]
Kerry McDonald is a Senior Contributor for Intellectual Takeout. She has a B.A. in economics from Bowdoin College and a Master’s degree in education policy from Harvard University. Follow her on Twitter.