January 26, 2024

Raleigh – North Carolinians overwhelmingly support school choice, according to the latest Carolina Journal Poll. The survey of 600 likely North Carolina voters found majority support for Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), charter schools, private-school vouchers, and ‘backpack funding.’ A plurality of voters (48%) said they were unhappy with the quality of education students receive at their local schools. More than three-quarters of people believe parents should be at the helm of their child’s education, with 77.1% saying parents are better suited than school boards to determine where their child should go to school. 

ESAs enjoy the greatest popularity, with nearly three-quarters (73.6%) supporting them – a marked increase from last January when voter support was 68.8%. The state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) is similarly well-liked, with 64% supporting the program. Only about a quarter of voters opposed the OSP, with teachers being more than twice as likely to oppose than parents. However, the opposite proved to be true with backpack funding. A solid majority of North Carolinians (60.2%) prefer a school-funding system that ties dollars to the needs of the child over the state’s current funding formula, and an even higher percentage of teachers (74.7%) support this change. 

“The strong backing for school choice programs like the Opportunity Scholarship and ESAs in our state is not just a trend; it’s a call to action for an education system that values choice and individuality,” said Carolina Journal publisher and John Locke Foundation CEO Donald Bryson. “These results are a clear signal: North Carolinians want an education system that puts parents and students in the driver’s seat.” 

Charter schools have the support of two-thirds of North Carolinians; however, there is significant confusion surrounding them. Less than half of voters (44.8%) know that charter schools are considered public schools, with two-fifths believing there are not public schools. Men are more likely to inaccurately believe that charter schools aren’t public, with nearly half of men (48%) believing they are non-public schools. Similarly, only 46.7% of North Carolinians know that charter schools cannot charge tuition, with nearly a third of men falsely believing charter schools can charge families tuition. Despite these confusions, 59.1% of people would like more charter schools in their area, and a plurality of voters (48.6%) support allocating charter schools money for capital needs. 

Only second to parents, voters believe the state school board is the most responsible for our students’ educational outcomes. While 11 of the 13 board members are currently appointed, most North Carolinians (64.2%) want to elect their state Board of Education. While a majority of registered Unaffiliated, Democrats, and Republicans all support making the state board of education elected, Republicans are more likely to support this change (73%) than Democrats (57%). 

On the matter of elections, Republicans have widened their lead in the race for state legislature. If the election were held now, 46.3% of voters said they would cast their ballot for a Republican General Assembly candidate, and 40.4% said they would vote for a Democratic candidate. This margin of 5.9 points marks a significant gain since November when Republicans only led by 1.1 points. The gap in satisfaction in America’s trajectory has similarly widened. The share of voters who believe the country is on the ‘right track’ has declined five points from 28.5% in November to 23.5% in January. Over two-thirds of voters believe the United States is on the ‘wrong track.’