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Most Americans aren't aware of public alternatives to the regular public school system. A 2001 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll found that only 55 percent of Americans were even aware of — had heard or read about — charter schools. Another poll, conducted by ICR/Washington Post/Kaiser/Harvard in May 2000, posed the question: “As you may know, the charter school program frees some public schools from certain state regulations and lets them work independently from the local school district as long as they meet state standards for student achievement. Do you favor or oppose such a program?� Nearly one-third (32 percent) said they strongly favored the idea and 38 percent somewhat favored it, while only 23 percent were opposed.

Although the charter school movement remains small, it has become a potent political issue. The Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll found that Republicans, younger generations, college graduates, Westerners and professionals tend to favor charter schools more than Democrats, senior citizens, high school grads and Midwesterners.


Americans are divided on whether charter schools are a good idea.

“As you may know, charter schools operate under a charter or contract that frees them from many of the state regulations imposed on public schools and permits them to operate independently. Do you favor or oppose the idea of charter schools?�

Total 42% 49% 9%
White 40% 50% 10%
Nonwhite 53% 43% 5%
18-29 53% 42% 4%
30-49 43% 48% 9%
50 and older 35% 53% 12%
Urban 48% 43% 9%
Suburban 42% 51% 7%
Rural 37% 50% 13%
Source: Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup 2001
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