Julie Negri called it “discrimination” in a Providence Journal op-ed, referring to her experience as a home-school mother when she learned that her daughter would not be eligible for funding through a state-run program, called Prepare Rhode Island. The program allows high school students to take courses at public institutions of higher education.
The legality of the state Department of Education’s policy is a matter of debate. The law creating the program specifically refers to “private day or residential schools,” andthe statute concerning the approval of private schools includes “at-home instruction.” Negri might have a strong case if there were anybody to take up the issue on her behalf. As a matter of public opinion, however, her daughter’s situation may be in a gray area, and it’s an area to which school choice advocates should seek to provide some color.
Across the country, Americans support the concept that parents should be able to choose their children’s schools, but the support depends on the type of school and the way the question is asked. According to a poll recently released by Phi Beta Kappa and Gallup, 64 percent of Americans “favor the idea of charter schools,” and the same percentage of respondents “favor allowing students and their parents to choose which public schools in the community the students attend.”
When it comes to “allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense,” however, favorability drops to 31 percent, with 57 percent opposed. The poll authors conclude that “the public does not support vouchers.” Another recent poll conducted by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has different findings.
Actually, the findings aren’t different so much as they are more telling.