January 26, 2023

RALEIGH – North Carolinians are overwhelmingly supporters of school choice, according to the results of the John Locke Foundation’s latest Civitas Poll.  

Over two-thirds of likely North Carolina voters support the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which grants scholarships to low-to-moderate-income students to attend a school of their choice. An even greater share of North Carolinians (68.8%) support Education Savings Accounts, which provide families with funds to pay for educational expenses, such as tuition, tutoring, and instructional materials. Charter schools, which have become a popular education option for families, received 68.7% support among those surveyed. Charter schools have more than doubled in number since the state-mandated cap was removed over a decade ago. 

Support for school choice programs is high in spite of – or perhaps because of – North Carolinians’ displeasure with the current state of K-12 education in the state. When asked about the quality of elementary through high school education, two-thirds of respondents said they are “dissatisfied.” Of those with at least one child currently enrolled in K-12, an even higher percentage (68%) said they were dissatisfied. Less than 30% of respondents said they believe the way schools addressed COVID-related learning loss was “adequate” or “satisf[actory].” The discontent with NC’s K-12 schools crosses partisan lines, with a majority of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats reporting dissatisfaction with the state of primary and secondary education. 

“It is a difficult time to have a child in school in North Carolina,” said John Locke Foundation President Donald Bryson. “The vast majority of voters are not satisfied with the quality of K-12 education, and a near majority are dissatisfied with how the state has dealt with learning loss in the wake of COVID-19.” 

An overwhelming majority of North Carolinians recognize that parents/guardians should choose what school is best for their children. Nearly 83% of respondents said a child’s parents are best suited to determine where their child attends school, while less than 12% believe local school boards are best suited. While the belief that local school boards know better for students than parents is more prevalent among registered Democrats than Republicans, over 75% of Democrats still believe parents know better than local school boards where their children should go to school. 

“Parents belong behind the wheel of their child’s education. North Carolinians want families to have more power over the educational opportunities of their children.” Bryson continued, “It is past time for the state of North Carolina to fund students and not systems.”