The School Choice Idea in Rhode Island: Myths, Opinions, and Realities

60% of Rhode Islanders give negative rating to RI’s public school system; 56% support school choice vouchers, including 62-63% of parents, youth and urbanites.

Download Myths & Opinions Report (PDF)

2014 National Survey

Significant Poll Findings, 2013

  • Nearly three out of four voters in Rhode Island (72%) say they pay attention to issues in K-12 education.
  • Only 29% of Ocean State voters would choose a traditional public school as their first their family’s first choice for education
  • 56% of voters support school vouchers, which is significantly greater than the proportion opposed (33%). Even without a definition of any kind, support for vouchers is greater than opposition by a nearly two-to-one margin. (40% favor vs. 23% oppose)
  • The demographics most likely to favor vouchers are school parents (62%), urbanites (63%), Republicans (65%), conservatives (67%), young voters (62%), and low-income earners (63%). Liberals are the least likely to support (49%).
  • There is much higher support for vouchers with universal eligibility (62%), compared to the proportion who supports means-testing (32%).
  • Rhode Islanders are much more likely to say K-12 education has gotten off on the “wrong track” (52%), compared to the one-third of voters (32%) who say it is heading in the “right direction.”
  • Six out of ten respondents gave negative ratings to the state’s public school system. (35% said “good” or “excellent”; 60% said “fair” or “poor”)

Report Introduction

The public policy debate about school choice — about allowing Rhode Island’s children and their families the freedom to determine what educational approach best suits their needs — is coming to the Ocean State in a big way. As the public, the news media, and elected representatives begin the conversation, it is important that they start from a foundation of facts. The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity therefore enters into the initial discussion:

  • A review of some of the common myths about school choice
  • A state-specific analysis of results from an opinion poll conducted in cooperation with the Friedman Foundation

The poll data shows that Rhode Islanders are displeased with the state of their education system and, more importantly, support reform policies strongly when they are explained.  Advocates for school choice should therefore be encouraged that many of the detractors’ arguments are myths.

For the complete polling data collected by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice in cooperation with the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, see here.


Read more about RI Families for School Choice at


Excerpts from Media Release, 10/29/13

Providence, RI — Six out of ten Rhode Island respondents gave a negative rating to the state’s public school system, while support for school choice programs, including vouchers, has broad appeal that crosses political and ethnic boundaries, according to new survey of registered voters in the Ocean State.
“The broad appeal of school choice might best be exemplified by the poll’s findings that the top two groups giving a poor-or-fair opinion of public schools (80% of the black community and 79% of state Republicans) are not normally closely aligned when it comes to public policy”, said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “It must be our responsibility as state to ensure that all families are empowered with the choice to provide their children with a quality education that creates opportunities for a brighter future.”
The poll released today by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, in cooperation with the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, found 56 percent of respondents favor vouchers, which allow parents to use a portion of their children’s state public education funding for private school tuition. Among African Americans, 76 percent support vouchers, while 54 percent of Democrats concur. The survey was conducted by Braun Research, Inc., which has been used by such research firms as Gallup Organization and the Pew Research Center.
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