September 5, 2003

September 5, 2003 | News Releases on Education

Lawmakers Exercise School Choice But Deny it to Others, Analysts Find

Members of Congress are four times more likely than the general public to send their children to private school, a new survey from the Heritage Foundation has found-despite the fact that they regularly reject measures that would allow students from poor families to attend the schools of their choice.

In the survey, The Heritage Foundation asked federal lawmakers if they have children who attend or had attended private schools. Members who have sent at least one child to private school at any time were judged to have exercised the private school option. If the member didn't respond, the data were entered in the "No Response" category.

The survey shows that, of those responding, nearly 41 percent of representatives and 46 percent of senators have sent or are sending children to private school. Only about 10 percent of the general public has done so.

"In the past three years, every piece of parental choice legislation would have passed if those who exercised choice in their own families had voted with supporters of school choice," write Heritage's Krista Kafer and Jonathan Butcher in a new paper that accompanies the survey.

Although some Members of Congress continue to oppose school-choice legislation, public support is growing, particularly among minorities. And existing programs enjoy a high level of parental satisfaction, Kafer and Butcher note.

A Zogby poll conducted in July 2002 found that 76 percent of respondents "strongly" or "somewhat" supported "providing parents with the option of sending their children to the school of their choice-either public, private, or parochial-rather than only to the school to which they are assigned."

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