RELEASE: Poll Shows DC Parents Want Expanded High-Quality Educational Options

Press Releases

November 10, 2015


Poll of DC Voters Shows Parents Want to Expand High-Quality Educational Options in DC

Poll finds support for expansion of high-performing schools in vacant buildings and cross-sector partnerships to turn around under-performing schools

Washington, DC – Today, Education Reform Now’s DC Chapter released the results of a survey of registered voters in Washington, DC, regarding attitudes toward public education in the city. Conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group, the survey found that while voters see improvement in the quality of public schools, they also view that progress as lopsided, with more significant progress in higher-income neighborhoods. Voters believe city leaders must act now to address these inequities to ensure fair access to educational opportunity for all public school students. They overwhelmingly support allowing successful schools, both district and charter, to expand in vacant school buildings in order to reduce waiting lists at the most popular schools and expand the number of high-quality seats available in the city.

“These poll results could not be more clear. Eight years after the reforms enacted under mayoral control, DC voters feel that we have made significant improvements to the quality of the city’s schools. We’re going in the right direction — but there is still more work to be done, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, to ensure fair access to quality schools. Voters also know that if we are going to keep young families in the District, we have to make sure children in every neighborhood can attend a high-quality public school. We must accelerate what’s working to improve the quality of traditional schools, and we need to reduce waiting lists and crowded classrooms by opening more top-performing public charter schools,” said Catharine Bellinger, Director of Education Reform Now’s DC Chapter.

“The 12 vacant former school buildings in DC – which represent a total of nearly 1.4 million square feet–provide the perfect opportunity to expand high-quality options for our families. Rather than letting taxpayers foot the bill while unused buildings become increasingly dilapidated and vandalized, let’s accelerate the release of more of these buildings to our highest-performing and most popular public charter schools.”

Conservative estimates project that DC’s population of public school students will grow to 125,000 by 2025. That means that within the next ten years, DC will need to serve an additional 40,000 children in DCPS and public charter schools. The poll findings show that DC parents want to invest now to improve DC schools, particularly by increasing capacity in the most popular schools, so that every child can access a high-quality education.

Some key numbers from the poll include:

  • 7 in 10 voters agree (including 75% of parents) that “schools are improving in upper-income areas of DC, but schools in lower-income parts of the District are being neglected.”
  • 76% of voters, including 83% of parents, agree that “in order to keep young families in DC, we need to improve the quality of traditional DCPS schools, but we also need to expand the top-performing public charter schools so more parents can choose a school that is right for their child.”
  • 3 in 4 voters (76%) believe public charter schools should be part of the solution for vacant school buildings.
  • 2 in 3 voters (65%) support a proposal for DCPS to partner with a “top-performing public charter school” to help turn around struggling schools.

The poll was conducted by Benenson Strategy Group from September 28-October 6, 2015, and includes data from 686 telephone interviews. All respondents are registered voters in Washington, DC, and an oversample of parents and cell phone users was included to ensure accurate representation in the survey. The margin of error for the data set is +/- 3.7% at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error for parents is +/- 5.9% at the 95% confidence level.

The full polling memo can be found here.


Catharine Bellinger